14 July 2010
Four years ago, Project 2010 was launched with the aim of providing a free flow of information relating to the preparations for the 2010 World Cup. In our mission statement, we declared our confidence that South Africa would host the greatest World Cup in history.
Since then, this country has experienced extraordinary highs and lows, including a political and constitutional crisis which led to the recalling of the country’s president, the outbreak of xenophobia and electricity shortages which threatened to cripple the country’s power grid.
On the plus side, the country was able to ride the global economic meltdown, thanks largely to a number of multi-billion rand World Cup-related construction projects.
Throughout this period, the world watched nervously as the various World Cup deadlines loomed. Just two years ago, Fifa President Sepp Blatter sparked a storm of controversy by conceding that there was a “Plan B” in the event that South Africa was unable to host the mega sporting event.
But, once again, we produced the goods and confounded our critics. And hundreds of millions of people spent 32 days watching in awe as South Africa took its rightful place at the centre of the universe and, in turn, embraced the entire planet.
The reality is that the country, which was once the pariah of the international community, has now made the world a better place.
The critics who spent four years running us into the ground have been drowned out by the roar of approval from the international media and the near-record number of fans who watched the 64 matches (South Africa became only the third host nation to exceed three-million spectators since 1930).
John Carlin, author of Playing the Enemy, says all those stories, promoted by Fifa, among others, about the World Cup being the 1995 rugby World Cup all over again, about healing racial wounds, uniting the fractured nation and so forth, were off the mark.
“It was much, much better than that,” he says. “What we saw was just how united and racially healed South Africa really is, how far we’ve advanced since the nervy nineties.”
Blatter this week said South Africa had scored a nine out of 10 for its hosting of the event, “making it a doctorate summa cum laude“.
Blatter said he had feared the high crime rate and poor public transport would jeopardise the tournament, but it went off without any major problems.
“A big compliment to South Africa, a big compliment to the people of South Africa, a big compliment to the government of South Africa for all the guarantees they have given and met,” said Blatter. “They can be proud.”
So there we have it. South Africa (yet again) has produced the goods. Take a bow!
Urquhart is a former Fifa World Cup media officer and the editor of Project 2010. This is his final column.