The Challenges Facing South Africa and its World Cup

March 31, 2010
The road to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup has been long for the 32 national teams that have made the final cut of the world’s most-watched international sporting event. But that road has been longer, rougher, and much more expensive for the Republic of South Africa, which was chosen as the host of the 2010 event back in 2004. In the intervening six years, South Africa has laid out a strategy for using the multi-city soccer tournament as a catalyst for local economic development and countrywide infrastructure investments.

Those preparations are underway, and the country has made broad physical and institutional improvements since being chosen to host the tournament. But with less than three months until kickoff on June 11, South Africa still faces many challenges and unanswered questions – not the least of which is what happens after the World Cup is over.

For a little background, the World Cup takes place every four years, and in most of the world it is probably the most important sporting event on the calendar (the U.S. team will be part of the competition, by the way). Fans travel thousands of miles to support their national teams as they battle to earn the Cup. This also means hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of foreign supporters piling into the host country and its handful of host cities during the month-long tournament. Preparing to host the games and absorb the boom of tourists requires years of planning and billions of dollars of investment. South Africa has spent both, and is hoping their investment of time and money will pay off in terms of the nation’s international reputation and economic vitality.