Playing by FIFA’s rules: The Politics and Potential Legacy of Port Elizabeth’s Hosting 2010 World Cup Matches
29.06.2010By Play the Game
Being host city of eight World Cup matches, Port Elizabeth hopes to attract nearly 30.000 visitors during the World Cup. These projections might prove overly optimistic, Dr. Gary Baines, Associate Professor at Rhodes University argues, saying that Port Elizabeth’s promoters have failed to capitalise on the city’s diverse assets in marketing the city to football teams and fans, relying too much on the face value of the event.
Dr. Baines also finds that compliance with FIFA deadlines and requirements seem to have subsumed the development goals of both the national government and local authorities. Instead, Baines argue, a city with limited resources should be obliged to prioritise the needs of its residents over those of those of an organisation that has no long-term commitment to the city.
Baines leaves little hope for the positive outcome of Port Elizabeth’s hosting eight World Cup Matches;
“the legacy of the World Cup will in all probability do nothing to alleviate poverty and address inequality. Instead, it is likely to exacerbate existing economic disparities, contribute to social instability and increase tensions within the ruling party at local level as it struggles to defuse dashed expectations amongst its constituency. Port Elizabeth/Nelson Mandela Bay will pay a price for playing the game according to FIFA’s rules,” he concludes.
Port Elizabeth was the first South African city to complete construction of a brand new venue to host 2010 Fifa World Cup matches. The metropolitan authority backed by the private sector hopes this spectacular event will change the city’s Cinderella status and transform it into a “winning city”. However, meeting Fifa’s requirements has many pitfalls. The escalating cost of the stadium has contributed to the metropole’s budget shortfall thereby hindering its own service delivery obligations. Long-term developmental goals will be sacrificed for the sake of enhancing the city’s image. Consequently, the legacy of the World Cup will be economically uneven and politically fractious.
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This paper appears in an edited French version in quarterly review Politique Africaine, number 118, June 2010, Dossier: Les terrains politique du foot. It is published on www.playthegame.org with kind permission of the author and Politique Africaine.