Sunday, June 3, 2007

Ready Or Not, Here It Comes

In case you didn't know, the next FIFA World Cup is being staged in South Africa.

Xan Rice, the East Africa correspondent for The Guardian, grew up in South Africa and wrote this interesting piece about his country's readiness for the Finals.

Here are some random quotes. Ready or not, the Cup's coming.

The challenges of hosting the World Cup have become at home in South Africa a mirror for the larger issues facing the country: the need to improve public transport, widen the supply of basic services such as water and electricity, create jobs, and help engineer a political solution to the ongoing political and economic crisis in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

What Danny Jordaan and his team must do to make the tournament a success, according to Phillips, is to ensure that it has a strong South African flavour. What local fans desire most of all are tickets for the games. But if tickets are as expensive as they were at recent tournaments, few genuine local supporters will be able to attend games. There has been talk of introducing a cheaper 'African ticket' - but given that Fifa's desire is to maximise profits and that nobody has worked out how to ensure that the proposed cheaper tickets are kept off the black market, this seems an unlikely prospect. Second best, not just for local fans but for those arriving from overseas, will be to have Fan Fests, where games are shown live on big screens in the major cities. They were hugely popular in Germany, where as many as 500,000 people gathered to watch games at the Fan Fest next to Berlin's Brandenburg Gate. Fifa is eager for the model to be used in South Africa as well as in the other major African cities such as Accra, Lagos, Nairobi and Cairo.

How safe will it be for fans to gather in the streets and watch football on large screens in South African cities? As you drive around the suburbs of Johannesburg you soon recognise what South African writer Ivan Vladislavic has called a 'place of contested boundaries'. Houses are barricaded behind high security walls; people with money even prefer to barricade themselves in their cars, which are fitted with satellite tracking devices. Park anywhere and a 'car guard' will rush over to make sure your vehicle is not stolen while you go about your business - for a fee, naturally. The newspapers publish each day horror stories of violent crime. The murder rate remains terrifying, among the highest in the world (nearly 19,000 people were murdered in the year to March 2005, against 853 in the UK in the same period; the UK's population is around 10 million higher than South Africa's).

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