South Africa’s World Cup Illusions

Four years ago, the world was glued onto South Africa and deafened by the constant irritable sound of the Vuvuzela.

Like other sporting events, the World Cup promised to bring economic prosperity through much needed investment in public infrastructure and tourism.

The New York Times ( have argued that “South Africa’s experience four years after hosting a successful World Cup is a cautionary tale for Brazil, which has also spent heavily on building brand-new stadiums, often in remote areas, that may rarely be used again.”

It continues “The stadium has also become a strain on the public purse, costing the city at least $32 million since 2010. These funds could be better spent on the city’s more urgent priorities, such as providing sanitation and houses for the poor. The lack of such services continues to be the spark that periodically ignites protests.

The city government says it wants the stadium to become a mixed-use venue, with a few long-term tenants to keep the crowds and revenue coming in during lean times when concerts and festivals are in short supply.”

I had a discussion with my students a few weeks back regarding Singapore’s choice of hosting the Youth Olympics in 2010, the same year of the previous world cup. The YOG debate in Singapore primarily revolved around how much the ministry or the minister spent over the budget.  Less attention however is being directed at the economic spillovers (or lack thereof) that resulted from hosting the YOG.

Of course, we might not be facing the issues that South Africa and Brazil are facing, but we do have our challenges – the poor and the elderly. Have they benefited from the country’s choice to host the games or have they been unnecessarily sidelined as a result?


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