South Africa’s publicity machine for the 2010 Fifa World Cup makes much of the success of the country’s hosting of the Confederations Cup.
Even if you are a Spanish footballer or other variety of European and associate only the blare of the vuvuzela with this year’s event, the Confederations Cup won the stamp of approval of Fifa chief Sepp Blatter. But first, it may not be much solace that Blatter and Fifa also approved of the vuvuzela – yes, the decision is that it will be around next year, although a newfangled "kuduzela" has been launched; and second, and more seriously, the World Cup dwarfs the Confed event.
The scale of everything to do with the World Cup is writ large, especially money matters.
Money Big money is involved, whether you are making it or spending it – the latter a point that the South African taxpayer is watching with interest.
Fifa has sold global television rights for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa for more than $3 billion.
Beer brewer Budweiser, an official sponsor, has secured exclusive rights to sell its product at all stadiums, with all local and foreign rivals barred – although South Africa’s Weekend Post said that local beer and wine makers were "hatching plans" to be able to compete.
Estimates are that foreign visitors will generate about 15 billion rands, the local currency, (1.32 billion euro) in earnings for South Africa.
Then there is the cost to domestic coffers. In 2004, South Africa estimated that hosting the World Cup would mean spending something up to three billion rands; the figure is now seen as coming in as closer to 13 billion rands.
The shopping list, after all, is a long one – not just completion of those stadiums not yet ready, but also transport infrastructure and security, among other items.
One cost went up recently, the result of industrial action by stadium construction workers. Labour South Africa’s preparations for the World Cup became news worldwide again when construction workers downed tools – and, in South African fashion, danced in protest in the streets of Cape Town to draw attention to their demands.
The National Union of Miners – which, as the strike made obvious, has a remit wider than just those who take the lift down to work every day – brought out 70 000 workers. When it emerged that the workers were getting about 13 rands an hour, there was some sympathy for them.
The strike went on for about a week, being resolved in the end by a 12 per cent pay increase, a guarantee for equivalent wage levels on all civil engineering projects, and the agreement also covers casual workers not affiliated to a union.
With a December 2009 deadline looming for completion of all stadium projects and contractors facing serious penalty clauses if they are not finished on time there is, of course, no concrete guarantee that there will not be further industrial action.
But the South African government has not been short on issuing assurances.
Assurances Speaking in parliament in early July, sport and recreation minister Makhenkesi Stofile said that his department would continue to work with other departments to ensure that South Africa met all 17 Fifa requirements.
These guarantees include access to South Africa, a supportive financial environment, intellectual property and marketing rights, safety and security, health care services, transport and telecommunications.
BuaNews quoted Stofile as telling parliament that after 2010, some host cities could use the stadiums to generate income or even bid for future events.
"With the support of National Treasury, we have agreed that municipalities could approach the Development Bank of South Africa for favourable loans.
"Some cities have already taken up this offer. The department will pay the interest on these loans for the first two years as we cannot cater for ever-increasing costs. "We hope that with falling prices of cement and steel, the host cities will also be able to save some money as a result," Stofile said.
Tickets are selling, stadiums are ready or will be on time, and South Africa has announced special arrangements for visas for foreign visitors – but the big question remains, will the country be ready on time for the 2010 football World Cup?
When, on May 15 2004, Fifa announced that it had chosen South Africa to host the 2010 football World Cup, there was dancing in the streets. Back then, it had just more than six years to get ready. Now it has less than 600 days.
The plan is that on June 11 2010, the first two of a month of matches will be played, at Soccer City in Johannesburg and at Green Point stadium in Cape Town. The final will be at Soccer City, a 94 700-seat venue undergoing a major upgrade - one of five existing stadiums being revamped, while the other five are being built from scratch.
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