My glimmer in to the host country for this year’s World Cup was a brief one, but it was telling. South Africa is a getting a lot of flack from journalists in countries that are very much not South Africa. It ranges from questions about the security of the venues, to the number of foreigners who will come, to transportation, to probably even questioning the lineage of various country leaders. It’s definitely been rough and the South Africans are very much aware of it, but bouncing back to it as best they can. There are radio commercials playing on the general perception of South Africa as a continent (“So when visitors come to the United States of Cape Town or the United Durban Emirates…”) There are also radio talk shows who chat about the subject endlessly as well as just about anyone you’ll meet.
Is the criticism warranted? Yes and no. When you have hundreds of thousands of foreign guests arriving for a month-long event, you do have a certain obligation to make their stay a pleasurable one. This means that you should have to answer hard questions about the readiness of your country to accept said people. It’s just that this should be done unilaterally. For instance, I don’t remember Germany having to go through all this scrutiny and they even have legalized prostitution (which sadly meant more women trafficked in for the event.) If you’ve been to South Africa, you realize that it’s not France, but at the same time, it isn’t Congo. It’s this rather enjoyable mix of everything good about Africa and everything good about Europe.
From where I sat with my limited and brief perception of things, South Africa looks ready for the World Cup. The stadiums are absolutely gorgeous. The transportation systems are solid (such as the new buses and Gautrain in Joburg.) The people are excited and the country is abuzz.
The only catch in all of this is that people really need to understand that it’s winter now in Africa Down Under. For all you Brits out there packing up your Hooligan Bags, make sure to toss in a good coat and if going to Cape Town; an umbrella.
Is South Africa ready for the World Cup?