2010 FIFA World Cup – A legacy marred before it even began

‘Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does… It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.’ – Nelson Mandela

During the remarkable post-match presentation ceremony, Nelson Mandela wearing a Springbok jersey bearing Francois Pienaar’s number 6, presented him with the Webb Ellis trophy. During his acceptance speech, Pienaar made it clear that the team had won the trophy not just with the support of the 60,000 fans at Ellis Park, but also with the support of all 43,000,000 South Africans.

I remember the day clearly. I was at a friend’s house and just before the game I popped out to get some supply snacks as it was clear that there were more people than expected for our final match viewing. As I drove through the streets of the neighbourhood, there was almost a ghostly silence characterized by a total absence of people driving around. I was the only twit not glued to his screen watching the Springboks make history against New Zealand. I wondered if ‘the rapture’ had taken place in a moment without warning, somewhere between leaving the house and getting into my car.

The spirit was electric, the joy was intoxicating and we sat glued to our seats. Everyone listened obsessively waiting to hear the final whistle that would confirm that our boys were the 1995 Rugby World Cup Champions. Finally the ref blew that whistle and we leaped into the air as if we ourselves were attempting another world cup high jump event.

As I stayed focused on the television in front of me, I noticed South Africans from every colour and creed, from every cultural and socio-economic divide, dancing and celebrating in the streets together. Wow! ‘This is the rainbow nation. This is beautiful!’, I thought to myself. For the first time in my life, I was proud to be a South African. Nelson Mandela and the Springboks had succeeded in orchestrating the most beautiful moment in South African history.

But how long did it last?

There is no doubt that the 1995 world cup united South Africans for the first time. But let’s be completely honest. The unity didn’t last very long did it?

The spirit of any emotionally charged event infects the group unconscious and people become single minded. This is a phenomenon well known to psychologists and those in the know. It’s like mass hypnosis on an unconscious level. The same can also be said of course for non-violent people who get caught up in mob violence. They don’t quite know what happened, but there they are on video, behaving like a lunatic. Completely out of character.

The reality is that after the event, our nation was still left with the same social challenges, surrounded by the same politicians playing their political games. The very unity that was created came crashing down once we realised that the mighty expensive sport event had not improved the lives of the struggling masses one iota. A handful of people made truckloads of money and the poor stayed poor. But one thing it certainly did do, was give us a brief glimpse of the beauty of unity and the power of a united nation!

The 2010 FIFA World Cup will be no different.

We were ripped off

Recently we all heard how one man, Wayne Smidt would make R80 million rand from the sales of Bafana Bafana jerseys. Our new highways are mostly built, our airports and stadiums are done but we started the tournament R65 billion in the red. I can deal with all of this, I can. But in order to do so, I need to know how the masses will benefit from this in the next one or 5 or 15 years time. It’s quite simple it’s called a cost benefit analysis. Heard of it?

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