17 August 2009
While South Africa’s nine 2010 host cities are in the news on a daily basis as a result of their World Cup preparations, dozens of smaller cities and towns are quietly positioning themselves for the key role they will play during the month-long event.
Mossel Bay on the Western Cape coast and Buffalo City in the Eastern Cape coast are among those preparing to play an important role by hosting visiting teams while, across the border in neighbouring Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls is undergoing a major face-lift in anticipation of a 2010-induced surge in tourism
Over the years, there have been many examples of towns and cities which have been transformed overnight by the World Cup and Olympic Games.
In 2006, the small Swiss town of Weggis found itself in the international spotlight during the World Cup in neighbouring Germany when Brazil set up its base camp there. Thousands of supporters and a large contingent of foreign media representatives followed the preparations of the world’s most famous team.
Sapporo in Japan doubled its population and established itself as a major conferencing and sporting destination after the 1972 Winter Olympics.
And South Korea, which co-hosted the 2002 World Cup with Japan, saw its economic growth double from 3.1% in 2001 to 6.3% one year later.
There have been many other success stories. Barcelona saw the number of international visitors to the city increase by 90% in the years following its successful hosting of the 1992 Olympic Games. And visitors to Sydney grew by around 50% after it hosted the 2000 Olympics.
In a thesis on the economic and socio-economic perspective of the 2010 World Cup, Professor Elsabe Loots of the University of the Free State says the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles was “the watershed event that changed the financial landscape of mega-events”.
Loots says the success of that event provided key lessons for the first African hosts of the quadrennial showpiece of international soccer.
Creative Communications SA notes that when the World Cup has left these shores and everything returns to normal, “normal” would have been redefined, “and those who have best read and exploited the dynamics around the event will be the long-term winners”.
It’s a powerful message, and one that many of the smaller cities and towns in South Africa – and the rest of the region – are taking to heart.
Irrespective whether they are planning to host visiting teams, fan parks or just a few thousand World Cup visitors who are looking for something uniquely African, the 2010 World Cup provides them with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grow their profile.
Urquhart is a former Fifa World Cup media officer and the current editor of Project 2010