In a matter of days the world’s largest sports event will come to a close. 2010 FIFA World Cup champions will be crowned, fans will blow their vuvuzelas in unison of tens of thousands one last time, stadiums will empty, the media will switch channels, athletes and travellers will go home. The FIFA World Cup lens will move to Brasil. South Africa, the host nation, will resume regular programming.

And the hangover of 30 days of football festivities will set in.

It has already started, actually. Following the first of two Semi-Finals in one of the nation’s three major host cities, the morning after the night before for Cape Town is still, silent, sad. There is a feeling of it’s over.

The hang-over is being felt not just by fans celebrating Holland’s success in securing a place in the Finals (or commiserating Uruguay’s not), but by the people of the host city. It is time to turn the lights out in the city’s new, iconic stadium graced by the backdrop of Table Mountain and encircling sea. That feeling of sadness will soon take over Durban as the host city braces itself for their hosting of the second Semis this evening, and then the moment of turning off the lights in their beautiful new stadium.

Magnification of this feeling, this sadness, will hit a crescendo as the Finals are played. While there will be (already is) immense pride felt by South Africans across the country and world in the successful hosting of the Games, tears of good-bye will fall for not only departing fans, but for closure of a dream.

The man has landed on the moon. The vision has been realised. And whichever team takes home the FIFA Word Cup, the people of the host nation would passionately argue that it is South Africa which won.

But what now? What next? What after the moon?

What can we expect?

Hosting of major events come with them immense expectations – expectations of delivery, expectations of accountability, and expectations of transformation. Especially economically.

But the reality is this: 30 days of sport cannot transform, sustainably, a national economy. It is simply not possible.

What is possible, and more meaningful, is the transformation which can occur in national confidence.

There is no question that through successful hosting of this mega-event the confidence which exists in South Africa has grown exponentially across the people of the world and across the people of the nation. And of great importance, of potential investors.

Confidence is a currency, especially for nations emerging as new forces of social and economic development on the global stage. It is a critical fuel for the growth and development of nations. And it is this currency which must be sought out as a key deliverable when mega-events are executed by nations.

By showing the world ‘we can do it‘, nations taking on global event challenges (ie. Beijing with the 2008 Olympics, South Africa with the 2010 World Cup, India with the 2010 Commonwealth Games and others), are able to showcase proof of delivery and strong ROI.

But this confidence needs to be channeled, with absolute clarity, towards a ‘what next’ – the new vision, the next planet to reach. Because to conclude a mega-event with simply good-byes and a headache would be to shortchange a dream.

So important to sustainable mega-event success is the host nation having ready a ‘what next’ – a post-event development plan which uses as capital all that has just been achieved, qualitatively and quantitatively (and naturally aligns to the long-term national development strategy).

Developing a ‘what next’, and overtly communicating it to the nation immediately following completion of a mega-event, ensures ROI of host nation/city investment is realised through
leveraging, long after the event concludes, newly established:

  • memory of success,
  • confidence in delivery,
  • unity of national spirit,
  • commitment to building the nation,
  • participation on the global stage, and
  • desire for investment into hard and soft infrastructure of the future

towards fulfilling a new vision.

To look up to the moon is not only about setting one’s eyes on a place higher and brighter, it is about holding one’s chin up with pride. And powerful conviction. Every single day.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010