Sunday, October 01, 2006

South Africa's Word Cup Concerns

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South Africa's crime rate is on the rise. According to the latest crime statistics, there was a 74% increase in the number of armed robberies of security vehicles transporting cash, and a 32% increase in the number of armed robberies of retail outlets and shopping malls. The figures also show the murder rate remains alarmingly high. In spite of a 2% decrease, there were still more than 18,000 murders last year. There was also a slight rise in the number of car hijackings. Business Against Crime, a Johannesburg-based group, warns that South Africa's rising crime rate will deter foreign investment. This is a major cause for concern as South Africa will become the first African country to host the World Cup in 2010.

South Africa's 2010 World Cup is set to be the most commercially successful since the first tournament was held 76 years ago. According to Fifa President Sepp Blatter, the event has already attracted more marketing and television attention than the 2006 event held in Germany .
"The market trusts Africa," Mr Blatter says. "The contracts we have
already signed for 2010 are higher than the contracts for 2006 in Germany by
about 25%."
Given the employment and business prospects associated with hosting an event as big as the World Cup, South Africa's business community is hoping that the tournament will create economic opportunities. The tournament is predicted to create approximately 160,000 jobs and contribute more than $3.6 billion to the country's gross domestic product.

Being entrusted by Fifa to host its flagship event is indeed a massive vote of confidence in the infrastructure and organizational capacity of South Africa, more so since it will be the first time the event will be held on the continent of Africa. However, sceptics have questioned South Africa's state of readiness to host this event after potential shortcomings were exposed earlier this year. First, there were a series of unannounced cuts to Cape Town's electricity supply. Next, a report revealed that the country's 30-year old broadcast infrastructure was not ready to cope with the needs of the World Cup. South Africa responded by stating that Sentech, its state-owned national broadcasting signal distributor, is due for an upgrade which will allay fears about the broadcasting capacity, while Eskom, the national electricity supplier, has already started plans to upgrade its capacity.

Transportation is also an ongoing headache. South Africa's cities rely on privately-owned minibus taxis, and long-anticipated plans to upgrade the fleet have only just begun. A train project aimed at easing traffic congestion in the Johannesburg-Pretoria area, will only be partly completed by 2010. The train will take tourists from the airport as far as the suburb of Sandton, but will go nowhere near any of the stadiums.

The five new stadiums set for construction in Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Polokwane and Nelspruit are due to begin by November and are expected to be ready for trial runs at the 2009 Confederations Cup which features the champions of all six Fifa Confederations together with the World Champions and the host nation.

Cape Town's new mayor, Helen Zille, from the opposition Democratic Alliance, has questioned where the more than $160 million will come from to finance the construction of the Cape Town stadium. Ms. Zille does not want the stadium to sideline more pressing needs like housing, sanitation and other essential services for the city's poor. Even the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) - allied to the African National Congress (ANC), the majority party in the South African government - supported the mayor's stance, saying the needs of the poor should come before an expensive football stadium.

Many local small business owners are also concerned that they may have to pay exorbitant licensing fees to Fifa, which controls its own marketing and television rights. This means that companies which are not licensed by Fifa will not be able to sell their products or services in or around the World Cup venues.

"Many local clothing manufacturers I've spoken to say they won't be able to afford the fees and would therefore simply try to sidestep the rules when the
event draws closer," says Navavee Matthews, who works for a marketing company

Question: Will South Africa be ready to host the 2010 World Cup?

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