South Africans upbeat about 2010

Janine Erasmus

The eyes of the world will be on South Africa in June and July 2010 when the country hosts the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Findings of the third annual survey conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) reveal that South Africans are still upbeat about the anticipated success of the event.

Since the moment in May 2004 when Fifa president Sepp Blatter announced that South Africa had been chosen to host the World Cup in 2010, the country has been alive with expectation. After disappointment following a controversial loss in the race to host the 2006 event, celebrations broke out in South Africa and across the continent at the news that the event would take place in Africa for the first time.

The Olympics are yet to be held in Africa, so the World Cup will be the largest sporting event ever held on the continent. Teams from 32 countries will be cheered by an estimated 2.7-million local spectators and a global television audience of billions. According to Fifa, the total cumulative television audience for the 2006 World Cup was 26.3-billion (24.2-billion in-home and 2.1-billion out-of-home viewers). Assessed in terms of the number of global viewers, the World Cup is the world’s largest sporting event.

Refurbishment of existing stadiums and building of new ones continues in South Africa, as well as upgrades to infrastructure such as airports. Meanwhile, many smaller enterprises, such as guesthouses and restaurants, are preparing to host the world.

Leaving a lasting legacy

Public expectations have not changed by much when compared to the previous two surveys, held in 2005 and 2006. The most widespread belief was that the event would bring economic benefits to the country as a whole, and to specific regions where games were to take place.

While opinion in 2005 was divided almost equally between whether benefits would be of a long- or short-term nature (47% against 44%), in 2006 a greater number of people (50%) foresaw long-term benefits, while 39% thought benefits would be short-term. The most recent survey reveals a steady 50% believing in long-term benefits and 41% in short-term.

According to the HSRC, this indicates that many people are not aware of the full scope of the legacy that the World Cup would leave behind. This legacy includes greater credibility for South Africa and Africa, increased urban development, and more participation from outside in the form of tourism and investment.

South Africa is working on the African Legacy Programme together with partners Fifa, the African Union, and the Confederation of African Football. An initiative of the Local Organising Committee and the government, the programme aims to maximise African participation in 2010, develop African football, and improve Africa’s image globally, well as support existing African development programmes such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

This will ensure that the benefits of hosting the World Cup are spread across the continent. Areas of focus are peace and nation-building, football development, culture and heritage, communication, telecommunications, and continental security co-operation.

The World Cup is one of the world’s biggest sporting stages and, said Local Organising Committee CEO Dr Danny Jordaan, it was important that visitors to South Africa experience everything the country has to offer, and to ensure they want to return.

Economic growth and more

Economic growth and job creation are believed to be the biggest advantages. In 2005 62% looked forward to more jobs and a boost to the economy. In 2006 this number fell to 51%. In the most recent survey 74% of respondents perceive economic growth, job creation and putting South Africa on the international map as the three main benefits.

A substantial 81% of South Africans in all three surveys felt that small business would benefit. With regard to black economic empowerment, there has been a slight but steady decline in the numbers who felt that this sector would grow – 76% in 2007 down from 78% in 2006 and 82% in 2005.

Faith in the organising committee and local authorities remains firm. The 2007 survey shows that a substantial 80% of South Africans believe that the country will be ready to host the World Cup. Here 82% were of this opinion in the first survey and 72% in the second.

Faith in the abilities of their local authorities to cope with the demands of the event was significantly less, at 56%. This compared consistently with 57% in 2006 survey but reflected a drop from 62% in the 2005 survey.

Respondents were also firm about their perceived disadvantages. Taking rate, food and petrol price hikes into account, the most commonly expressed disadvantage is the fear of price rises, they said. These figures have risen and fallen – 30% in the latest survey, a marked increase from 22% in 2006 and 25% in 2005. The number of respondents who see a rise in crime because of 2010 has also fluctuated between 2005 and 2007, from 20% to 29% to 27%.

Additionally, there has been a slight fall in the number of South Africans who believe that the country’s cities will become more competitive on the global stage. In 2005 the proportion was 85%, compared to 82% and 79% in 2006 and 2007 respectively.

According to Dr Udesh Pillay, head of the HSRC’s 2010 World Cup Research Project, the downward trend in these two categories could signify a growing sense of realism regarding 2010, but this can be addressed by policy-makers and government.

Continuing to monitor trends

Pillay said the HSRC will continue to track and analyse changing attitudes, providing policy-makers and practitioners with decisive planning information in the run-up to the event, and creating a space for public debate and dialogue.

The HSRC’s World Cup project extends beyond the annual survey. In addition to the survey, there are three other components to the 2010 research project. The HSRC is collaborating with the Centre for Urban and Built Environment Studies of the University of the Witwatersrand on a better understanding of effect that mega-events have on cities and their residents.

In addition, it is conducting further research on other aspects of the World Cup such as governance, and it engages with the public through platforms such as a fortnightly column in Business Day, and conferences and seminars.

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