Development and Dreams: The Urban Legacy of the 2010 Football World Cup

Pillay, Udesh
Tomlinson, Richard
Bass, Orli
HSRC Press, 2009, ISBN: 978-07969-2250-2, 328 pp.
Reviewed by or other comment: 

Selene Herculano, Vera Rezende & Thereza Carvalho
Universidade Federal Fluminense/LACTA (Brazil)

As Brazilians, we were particularly interested to review this book, given that Brazil has been chosen to host two global sport events: the FIFA Word Cup 2014 and the 2016 Olympic Games. Many of the arguments voiced by the Brazilian people and authorities for and against hosting such events are echoed in this book about the impact on South Africa of playing host to the 2010 World Cup. Aside from more objective considerations, South Americans and Africans alike feel a sense of pride at seeing themselves distinguished among the nations in the world: two continents so far relatively unrecognised, now with the possibility of beginning to be seen from a different perspective by the international community.
This book draws attention to the relatively recent phenomenon of a mega-alliance among sports, business, and media interests, made possible by new mass communication and information technologies focused on television and sponsoring rights. (The FIFA World Cup 2006 had an accumulated audience of 26.29 billion, and FIFA collected US$ 2.77 billion in television and marketing rights.) Such alliances of interest have created a carefully projected calendar of global sport events taking place every two years. This book deals with the national and local implications and expectations generated by the choice of location for such events.
This book is based on research initiated in 2005 by the HSRC – Human Sciences Research Council – in collaboration with the Wits Institute for Social & Economic Research (Witwatersrand University), the South Africa Bank of Development, the South African Cities Network, and the Goethe Institute in Johannesburg. The research aimed to evaluate the impact of the 2010 World Cup competition on South African urban development. The book is divided into three parts: the construction of the event; evaluation of the impact (on poverty, on tourism, and on rural and urban areas); and the debate about the legacy (the dreams and expectations of the South African people).
We expected to find more detailed data and analysis on crucial aspects such as the FIFA general budget compared with the national counterpart budget; organisational procedures via participative democracy; and the maintenance and usefulness of built urban infrastructure after the event, but little attention is given to these matters. There is an introductory reference to the sum of 30 billion Rand, forecast in March 2008 as the South African government‘s share of the costs of hosting the 2010 World Cup. Davis, in Chapter 3 (‘Managing the alchemy of the 2010 Football World Cup’), presents readers with administrative-structure organisational charts of Cape Town in relation to the preparation for the event, alongside a table of the approved expenditures on football stadiums in 2006 (8.4 billion Rand). However, references to investments/expenditure in different currencies – US Dollar and South African Rand, etc. – without definitions of currency equivalences make it hard for readers to evaluate the data.
Udesh Pillay, in his ‘Afterword’, highlights the positive response of South African citizens before the 2010 World Cup, which was presented as an opportunity to reiterate the process of national construction, to further instil feelings of patriotism and identity formation, to strengthen democratisation processes, human rights, and civil society, and achieve political liberalisation by means of social-capital construction. Objectively, in both the short and long run, there were positive expectations regarding the creation of more jobs, the reviving of degraded urban areas, and investments in public transportation and communication technologies which would continue after the World Cup. According to Pillay, preparations for the hosting the World Cup provided a platform and a safe space for debating and critically evaluating the effectiveness of the national plan of action against poverty, bringing into the discourse the national housing deficit of 2.5 million units.
Popular participation in decision making is addressed in various chapters of the book, with authors arguing the positive benefits of citizen involvement, which hitherto has hardly existed. The double intent of achieving international visibility and reducing social inequalities seems to generate some tension, and Swart and Bob, in initiating a case study about Cape Town (Chapter 7: ‘Venue selection and the 2010 World Cup: a case study of Cape Town’), indicate a way of resolving this tension, which would be to consult the population, amplifying their participation in the decision-making process, to make the sport known as a pathway to social development and encourage its practice.
One of the most questioning contributions to this book is the focus on spatial and social implications which will result from the massive sports-centre project in Johannesburg, which includes the Johannesburg football stadium (the Standard Bank Arena), and the urban renewal initiatives in the neighbourhood (Benit-Gbaffou, Chapter 11: ‘In the shadow of 2010: democracy and displacement in the Greater Ellis Park Development project’). The areas next to the sports centre shelter a low-income population of migrants living in overcrowded, squalid buildings which, according to the author, were due to be demolished. The fact that the ‘Greater Ellis Project’ is supported by private partners relegates the public sector to the role of a mere process facilitator, with little guarantee that it can solve the housing issues generated by the project.
Another form of urban intervention was the PVAs – public viewing areas – also called ‘parks for the fans’. These were areas outside the stadium where big screens were located, allowing involvement with the games and, at the same time, also establishing some connection with tourists and other residents. The 2006 World Cup in Germany was the first to use massive PVAs in different cities, promoting the flow of tourists into different regions. In Berlin a similar initiative supported the urban recovery of selected public spaces (Haferburg, Golka and Selter, Chapter 10: ‘Public viewing areas: urban interventions in the context of mega-events’). The PVAs created in the South African population the expectation of earning income through informal commerce, the negative implications of which greatly preoccupied the authorities. Residents on the outskirts of the cities resented the fact that PVAs were not expected to be installed in those areas.
The part of the book called ‘Dreams’ considers the expectations of the potential material and symbolic benefits of the 2010 World Cup. In this group of articles, important implied questions around the hosting of the event are discussed, such as the potential for the population to earn income from the event, the construction of a new image of efficiency and hospitality for South Africa, and an opportunity for the broader African continent to move away from an image of underdevelopment and towards a modern, ready-for-tourism image. These individual and collective dreams were being constructed and inflated in the years before the event, but with little chance of being fully realised. The importance of these chapters is their relevance to other mega-events, beyond the immediate occasion of the 2010 World Cup: in this case, the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where issues like social inclusion and the pursuit of a new image for the country also feature among fundamental topics being discussed.
What opportunities could the South Africans expect from their mega-event? Czegledy answers this in Chapter 12 (‘Urban dreams: the 2010 Football World Cup and expectations of benefit in Johannesburg’), emphasising that the major motivations had little to do with sport itself: the real driving force were the enormous profits generated for the organisations associated with FIFA which are involved in the conduct and broadcasting of the games. Czegledy also addresses the likely increases in property prices in the areas where urban intervention were due to take place, in contrast with the informal workers' precarious living conditions.
The preoccupation with the opportunity to use this mega-event as a tool to enhance the local image was repeated in other South African cities. Durban wished to improve its urban identity and promote itself, to both tourists and residents, as an inclusive and balanced African city, as Orli Bass shows in Chapter 13 (‘Aiming for Africa: Durban, 2010 and notions of African urban identity’). The author explores the tensions between the intention of building a new urban identity through local administration and another image, constructed on a provincial administration level, anchored in the African lifestyle and in the rural areas, valuing the Zulu identity.
From another perspective, Margot Rubin (Chapter 14 – ‘The offside rule: women's bodies in masculinised spaces’) brings into the debate questions about gender and the increasing presence of women, as spectators and participants, in a traditionally masculine sport. The author focuses on the manner in which FIFA events are conceived as masculinised spaces, and she reviews previous events to show the level of acceptance or non-acceptance of feminine presence. She considers women's rights in the context of the 2010 World Cup and the history of resistance in South Africa.
However, the bottom line is the book's conclusion that the World Cup's potential contributions to South African economic development, tackling poverty by the creation of new jobs, were overestimated. Tomlinson (Chapter 6: ‘Anticipating 2011’) is concerned that the event could even be harmful to the national economy and promote regional inequality. Cornelissen (Chapter 8: ‘Sport, mega-events and urban tourism’) also views the tourism dimension with caution, as mega-events end up attracting other types of more permanent tourism, particularly business tourism.
This is a book that prompts questions and reflections, which is always positive. But there are some blank spaces, especially for readers from other continents. In particular, the book suffers from a failure to present the World Cup within the general African and South African context. Comparative data on the current South African economy are not provided. For example: how does the sum of 8.4 billion Rand, approved for expenditure on constructing and updating 10 football stadiums, compare with other expenses like public politics and the gross internal product? The developmental concept itself is not explained, neither is its frame of reference, that is, the indicators to be used in order to evaluate whether the efforts to host the event were efficient and will contribute towards South African development and general quality of life.
Even if the World Cup has increased public knowledge about the African continent and its diversity, geographic ignorance seems to be present among some of the authors: Merwe, for example, assumes that Mexico is part of South America (pp. 21 and 22); and refers to the USA simply as ‘America’ (p. 19), as if all the other 26 countries that make up the three Americas – North, South, and Central – were not America! Surely a book which portrays a continent's expectations of being seen by the world in its diversity and cultural richness should not endorse the United States rhetoric that steals from 26 countries the American identity.