July 7th, 2010
03:36 PM GMT
Now is the time that people starting asking whether or not hosting an event like the World Cup was worth it.
With the benefit of hindsight, the columnists will make assessments on how successful the tournament has been. The economists will start calculating whether the country could afford it. The good citizens of South Africa will wonder what to do with themselves after years of planning and now weeks of hosting one of the world’s biggest sporting tournaments.
The feel-good factor is still around – South Africans haven’t felt this positive about each other and the country in a long time. As one commentator put it, "You would think someone had put Prozac in the water."
However, the warm, fuzzy love-fest will soon wear off. Or will it?
Cynical, tough people by nature, South Africans will soon start to ask hard questions of their national and local governments. How will the authorities make sure that the 10 World Cup stadiums don’t become empty, expensive, unused "white elephants?"
The main stadiums in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban will most likely be used for local sports and cultural events. However, there are many doubts about the long-term benefits of having huge international-size stadiums in small, regional towns like Rustenberg, Nelspruit or Port Elizabeth.
Will these stadiums slowly fall into disrepair? How will authorities manage to pay for these giant structures looming large in their communities as they try to tackle the pressing social problems of housing, education and unemployment?
Another obvious success of the World Cup has been the visible policing. Forty thousand extra police officers have been on the beat and a comprehensive security plan has kept locals and foreigners safe and secure.
The experience of being able to catch transport or walk in cities after dark and feel safe has been an epiphany for crime-weary South Africans. Statistics are not yet available but it appears that there has been a significant drop in crime in the past month.
So many are already asking – why can’t it be like that all the time? It seems with political will, South Africa can be a safe and peaceful place.
The big push will now be to ensure that the gains made for a month of football will endure long after the final whistle.
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