In just over one hour the first whistle will blow on the 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP in South Africa. Finally, following 12 years of visioning, 6 years of organisation, an estimated US$ 4 billion in direct capital investment, selection of 32 international teams, and millions of man-hours of preparations, KE NAKO – it’s time!

And for 49 million people, with the world watching alongside, a life-long dream will come true.

For South Africa the hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup has been a remarkable project. Packaged as an international Mega-event, the 2010 Games are the greatest single injection of investment the nation has seen since its liberation in 1994. A national upgrade programme, the 2010 Games demanded that the country get to work, ensuring that the fundamentals were well in place to host the largest, most watched sporting event on Earth. Estimates of investment levels vary – there are as many projections as opinions.

SA2010.GOV.ZA predicted in late 2009: “Before adding new stadiums in Cape Town and Durban, the original estimate was $295 million. Don’t be surprised it at the end of the day, it’s a lot more than the £3.7 billion.”

In early 2010 the Government’s total contribution to infrastructure and stadiums stood at R17.4 billion. Of this:

  • R9 billion was allocated towards transport and supporting infrastructure
  • R8,4 billion funded the building of five new World Cup stadiums and the upgrading another five

In addition to World Cup infrastructure projects, funding has also been channeled towards non-infrastructure projects – sports and recreation programmes, arts and culture programmes, policing, emergency medical services and telecommunications upgrades. The source of these massive funds? The people of South Africa, through the National government, though these will be supplemented by contributions from provincial government, local government and other private sector and investment partners.

Immense amounts of investment, in a nation hungry for the foundations of a nation in rebuilding mode.

So why make such an investment into what could be simply a tourism event? Why not hospitals, and schools, and utilities? Why this, now? Why, where there are so many risks of “I told you so!” if something goes wrong?

Because of what we will build beyond 2010, once the Games have ended, champions been crowned, fans departed and stadium lights turned off. We know there will be red ink when it comes time to balance expenses vs. earnings. The global economic recession, troubles with games and airline tickets, accommodation challenges. There will be losses. There will be questions re. viability. There will be questions re. R.O.I.

But there is one more important question which a nation needs to ask when weighing up the pros and cons of massive Tourism investment, especially in Mega-Events:


Think about it. What if, on May 15th, 2004, South Africa had not been awarded 2010 World Cup host nation status?

Or if Beijing had not been awarded hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games?

Or India the 2010 Commonwealth Games?

What would we see? Today, six years on, would we actually see any difference to the day before?

And considering the job and earnings losses caused by the global economic crisis, would we have endured had we not had the 2010 Games to deliver on?

As recently expressed by Dr Laurine Platzky, Deputy Director-General, 2010 FIFA World Cup Coordinator in the Department of the Premier, in the Western Cape (home of host city Cape Town) in a speech at the book launch of the new, iconic CT Stadium:

“Imagine if we had not had the World Cup. Would we by now have housed and employed all the people in the city? Would we, with all those billions spent on the World Cup, instead have educated all our children, fed the hungry and restructured our city – probably not because we would still have been arguing on how to do it all. Forgive me but without a tight deadline, budget and dedicated teams of skilled people, structural change is not possible. Nothing like time and money to focus the mind. “

What if we hadn’t?

  • What would our streets look like?
  • What would our airports, stadia, telecomms, security and transport systems look like?
  • What would our society look like?
  • How would our future be different?

And importantly…

  • How would the world look at us?
  • How would we look at ourselves?
  • And how would we feel when we look at our flag?

The calculation of the ROI of Tourism Investment, be it a major event, a major development or a major campaign, includes a number of metrics. And not all of them are numbers, quantitative, black & white.

The challenges are leverage, legacy and linkages. And they are for each and every national to make ‘work’ to ensure that the Games truly work for the nation.

To soundbyte South Africa at this precise moment would be a cocktail of the deafening sound of the vuvuzelas, the magnificent flashes of colour from the waving flags, the pure tears of anticipation as the clock counts down, the global headlines already announcing South Africa’s readiness to welcome the world…and the world’s readiness to welcome South Africa. And there is still one hour before kick-off of Game #1.

These are the moments which inspire belief, inspire relook, inspire future visitation, inspire confidence in the possibility of growth and development, and inspire future investment.

They are not defining moments, they are RE-defining moments.

But what if South Africa hadn’t?

It’s hard to even imagine.
Just as the feeling in the hearts of South Africans, here in South Africa and across the world, right now, could ever have been.

It’s time!

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010