Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Are You Scared to Travel to South Africa for the 2010 Cup?


Are you scared to make your way to South Africa for next year's 2010 World Cup? 

I'm not. I'm sure many people aren't. 

But unfortunately, some people are. 

The facts remain that crime is a problem in the African nation. Still, I'm sure everything will be done to protect fans and supporters from any harm. 

Unfortunately, even that can't sway some from swirling the flames of fear. 


In this article, Taylor makes her case for not attending the World Cup. 

Sensationalist rubbish? You decide. 

I, for one, will try to enjoy the people, the country and the football. 

Crime exists everywhere. I live close to New York City and some people will have you believe every one in the city carries firearms. That's not the case. And I'm sure that won't be the case come next year at the world's biggest sporting event. 

You don't know what you're missing, Ms. Taylor. Open your mind and give South Africa a chance! 
"Awe-inspiring landscapes, cosmopolitan cities, beautiful vineyards and amazing wildlife – the Rainbow nation offers something for everyone, where the people and culture are as diverse as the landscape. Africa's southernmost country has long been the inspiration of travellers the world over ... "

So says the blurb introducing South Africa in a typical holiday brochure. Few readers could fail to be enticed – well, at least until they spotted the prices – but most will also ask themselves the questions: What about the crime? Is it safe? Happily, South Africa seems to do tourism, particularly high-end tourism, pretty well, and the answers in the overwhelming majority of cases are a resounding: It won't affect you and Yes.

I've never been but would love to take a typical Cape Town/Garden Route-type holiday. What I would definitely balk at, though, is touring as a fan at next year's World Cup – an event, with the final 12 months away, we are counting down to. Indeed, having done a bit of research on the subject, I know I'd be absolutely terrified.

Such fears are often as much about perception as statistics, but unfortunately the stats – not to mention much anecdotal evidence – confirm that football fans like me are right to be more than a little scared. After all, this is a country in which approximately 50 people are murdered every day.

Let's start where the UK government would like us to, with the official Foreign Office travel advice. As a fairly regular visitor to the Middle East, I know this can sometimes seem unnecessarily alarmist but, even so, the South African advisory is still capable of making the most well-travelled England fan think twice.

Here are some selected excerpts. "South Africa has a very high level of crime including rape and murder." "In all areas of South Africa you should be cautious when out after dark." "There have been a number of incidents involving foreigners being followed from Johannesburg airport to their destinations by car and then robbed, often at gunpoint." "The standard of driving is variable and there are many fatal accidents." Meanwhile, "vigilance" is demanded "at all times" in Durban.

So far so cheery. Then there was the recent news that G4S, the world's biggest security firm, has declined to work at next summer's World Cup. Nick Buckles, the organisation's chief executive, took that decision after revealing that G4S rated South Africa more dangerous than Iraq and Afghanistan.

Of course, much violence occurs in the townships but, looking in from the outside, a major problem appears to be the lack of public transport. Where are the wonderful train services that helped Germany 2006 run so smoothly? After reporting on last month's Confederations Cup, the journalist Gabriele Marcotti wrote: "Public transport is generally poor and, besides, most foreign tourists are told not to take buses and trains."

Quite apart from recounting a late-night incident with a shadowy, gun-toting man – probably involved in security rather than crime – while driving in Johannesburg, Marcotti wrote of some long, unpleasant drives in the dark after covering matches. Commenting on the lack of dual carriageways and lit highways in certain areas, he described negotiating one road heading towards Jo'burg as "like snorkelling in a sewer filled with squid ink". Shortly afterwards came the sad news that a German journalist had been killed in a car crash while driving back to his hotel after attending a Confederations Cup match.

Talking of the Confederations Cup, remember that players from both the Egyptian and Brazilian teams returned to their hotel rooms after victories over, coincidentally, Italy to find they had been robbed. No matter, though; in March Danny Jordaan, the chief executive of the 2010 World Cup, issued a "100% guarantee" that there would not be "a single" security breach or attack on any team or official attending Africa's first such showpiece. "We'll have 41,000 extra police and 86,000 added [security] personnel," he said.

Those guests who attended a Fifa draw in Durban in November 2007 may take some convincing. They were shocked when Peter Burgstaller, an Austrian ex-professional footballer, was shot dead while on his hotel golf course. Meanwhile, another hotel guest was mugged en route to breakfast and journalists covering the event were advised to venture out only in groups.

Moving on, for the moment, from crime, there is also the HIV issue. Latest stats indicate that just over 18% of South Africa's adult population is infected. Considering that prostitutes always prosper during World Cups, you do not need to be a rocket scientist to detect the looming dangers.

There is a huge political investment in Africa's inaugural World Cup proving a resounding success, and you suspect those Fifa delegates who recently gave the country eight out of ten in terms of preparations could be in peril of believing their own spin.

Deep down, there must be some VIPs pacing Fifa's corridors of power who harbour nagging regrets that Egypt or Morocco did not pip South Africa and win the vote. Indeed, one or two might just regret that the event was not switched to Australia when, some time ago, football's international governing body arguably had the chance to do so.

Personally I'd have preferred the 2010 World Cup to have gone to Egypt. Yes, it would have been very hot (although it's a dry heat) and it would, in places, have been dirty and ultra-chaotic, but it would also have been friendly and welcoming. And, in terms of crime, Egypt is extremely safe. Eyebrows would doubtless have been raised at the potential for organisational mayhem, the nightmarish Cairo traffic and the downtown air pollution, but surely if the Egyptians could build the pyramids they could host a World Cup.

Moreover, staging football's biggest and best event in a key centre of the Arab world might just have helped ease tensions between the international Muslim community and the west while simultaneously weakening the Islamic fundamentalists growing hold over hearts and minds.

Instead, though, South Africa has a wonderful opportunity to change prejudices and perceptions. And, I sincerely hope, prove doom-mongers like me horribly wrong.





24 comments:

Lifetravelermd said...

If you want to understand the issues and dangers of traveling to SA, read my blog. It is about my trip during the Confed Cup.

http://confedcup09-ckb.blogspot.com/

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dining room table said...

Why should I be scared traveling to South Africa? Is there any danger in that place? I think I need to think twice before going to South Africa.

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