2010 FIFA WORLD CUP -A View from the Couch
2010 FIFA WORLD CUP DESTINATION
Since it was chosen as the 2010 venue for the FIFA World Cup, South Africa has been gearing itself up for the influx of visitors and tourists. Those of us who are privileged to be neighbours of South Africa in the Southern region of Africa have watched with keen interest the unfolding developments in our sister country. We might not be there as things happen in South Africa, or even set foot on the pitch as the games begin to kick off, but we can enjoy a view from a vantage point, a view from the couch. During the few times that I have visited South Africa in the past 12 months, I have had a chance to witness what I can say is massive preparation on the ground.
Construction and re-building of Soccer Stadiums
There has been a hustle and bustle of activity over the past couple of years as South Africa prepared for the 2010 FIFA World Cup phenomenon. No cash has been spared in either new construction or refurbishment or upgrading of stadiums around the country. At my last count there were ten state of the art stadiums in nine cities, with Johannesburg boasting of two gigantic facilities, the Soccer City and Ellis Park stadiums. The former had a major upgrade done and now boasts the largest seating capacity. Apart from its elegant design resembling an African pot, this stadium will host the first and final matches. The latter was spruced up and will now hold about 5000 more people. According to a review on the official 2010 FIFA World Cup website, the location of these two stadiums in the heart of Johannesburg means a hub of activity which will span from beginning to the end of the soccer event.
Other notable stadiums featured on the 2010 FIFA World Cup official website are the Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban and Green Point stadium in Cape Town. I had the privilege to witness the construction of the Moses Mabhida stadium during one of my visits to the port city of Durban in 2008. As a visitor I was fascinated by the workmanship and spirit that permeated the air. Durbanites were quite upbeat about this work and the prospects it would bring to the city during the World Cup and beyond. I’m convinced even from my couch position that all the other stadiums located in the various cities of South Africa are geared up and ready for the matches that have been allocated to them.
Upgrading of Airports
The O.R. Tambo International Airport is the gateway to South Africa and if the work that has gone into the refurbishment and expansion of this airport is anything to go by, then no visitor has seen what awaits them. The Johannesburg International Airport of old is no more and in its place stands the majestic and flamboyant, O R Tambo International Airport with its new city like interior. One would be forgiven to think that they have landed in Europe or any of the large first world airports and yet this is about one and a half hours flight from my present location. On my last visit, I could not help but marvel at this level of preparation and visitors should expect to feel the class and comfort that they are used to. I also understand that all the other airports in the major cities and tourist destinations are ready and proud and some have already started receiving the visitors.
Revamping the transport system
I could not help but notice that the touts that used to wait in the arrivals section of the old Johannesburg International Airport have also disappeared. Those were the menacing guys who would hound you to hire their taxi into the city. In some cases, visitors would end up being mugged by some dubious characters that they would have hired. Instead, now there is an organised, secure and professional taxi service. Reports coming from South Africa are that, the country cannot gamble with its reputation to the thousands of tourists coming to South Africa and so security is of paramount importance. The road network has also been upgraded and those that are in the public transport business have invested in new and reliable vehicles. From my vantage point as I watch on my television screen in my lounge, news filters through of the recent demands for fair wages by workers in the transport sector. I think it is a fair demand as the demand that will be made on them will be greater in the few days to come.
Sprucing up the Hospitality Industry
Not to be outdone and taking the centre stage is the hospitality sector. Several hotels and lodges are busy right now with final touches as they will be accommodating and looking after the welfare of the multitude of visitors descending on South Africa as we speak. I googled the words “ 2010 World Cup Accommodation” and got 6,820,000 results and so began to wonder how on earth is one supposed to search for suitable accommodation in this large number. Then it became clear, one needs to be specific about their needs and type in exactly the description of what they want and this will narrow down the search. Hence, for the discerning visitor a wise move would be either to approach reputable travel agents for information or research thoroughly on the internet using very specific terms or else get recommendations from friends and family. However, it is my calculated guess as I view from the couch that with all the preparations made in other sectors, the hospitality sector would be the heart of South Africa. Any rating the country will get will derive much from this sector.
People and Attitude
What would South Africa do without the people? Not just people but people with the right attitude. While the government and industry have been frantically positioning themselves, the people of South Africa and the world over have also been positioning themselves. When the match kicks off on the 11th of June 2010, those that had the opportunity and managed to grab their tickets on time are making the final preparations to be at the venue. Those that were not so privileged for so many reasons have not given up and are busy making alternative arrangements to make sure they do not miss anything from the first whistle to the last. Some of us are busy adjusting our television sets; others have invested in High Definition sets and satellite dishes. The attitude of the people is just right, the fans have their team jerseys, vuvuzelas (a horn blown by supporters during matches) and masks all ready. South Africans are busy raising support for their home team, Bafana Bafana and the yellow jersey is now a common feature on the streets and on television.
When the whistle is blown!
I will be sitting on my couch, in my living room, donning my favourite team’s colours, or raising the miniature flag with a drink on the side. There is no way I will miss the 2010 FIFA World Cup as long as my television licence is paid up. The South African Broadcasting Corporation and many other local and international broadcasters have promised us the fans a rare treat by beaming all the matches in various languages.