Soccer Fever

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World cupThe FIFA World Cup, hosted this year by South Africa, is nearing amid doubts and turmoil in the country. The Games are set to take place June 11-July 11, 2010. But despite the concerns over safety and readiness, the South African government is in high gear in preparation for the games. It has already spent more the $3.9 billion dollars to ready itself for the event, which is considered the most widely viewed sporting event in the world. The World Cup is an international football (soccer) competition of the members of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

“The importance of the World Cup also lay in the unique opportunity to introduce South Africa to the cumulative viewing audience of 34 billion over the course of the month-long tournament. This was South Africa’s opportunity to rebrand and reposition the country as a global player on the world stage,” says South Africa Tourism spokesperson Jermaine Craig.

And for South Africa, hosting the World Cup means big business. According to Craig, “The economic benefit of 2010 is predicted to be extensive. About 415,000 jobs will have been created by hosting the tournament with approximately 80,000 jobs in the hospitality industry and 40,000 in the construction industry.” On the bottom line, Craig adds, “US$7.5 billion will be added into South Africa’s GDP in 2010, while approx US$1.1 billion is predicted to be spent in South Africa by foreign visitors in 2010.”

With so many visitors coming, concerns are high about crime especially in light of the recent race riots sparked by the killing of a well-known South African White Supremacist. But according to Craig, security has been a priority for the World Cup. Craig explains, “The South African Police Service numbers over 190,000 with an additional 100,000 police reservists.   There will be 41,000 dedicated police officers deployed specifically to the event, as well as dedicated 2010 police stations within close proximity to each of the stadiums, and a 24-hour multilingual hotline to assist visitors requiring police or medical services.  These are just a few of the many security procedures that will be in place to ensure the safety and security of our visitors and our local population.”

The promotions to international markets have been great in order to lure in attendees. But the World Cup organizers, according to a report by the Associated Press, still have 355,000 tickets to sell. Some 45,000 match tickets were sold in the first four days of the final sales phase. But organizers have had to offer cheaper tickets to ensure all 11 World Cup stadiums are full. Among the tickets sold, America came in third (behind China and India) in the highest number of tickets purchased. “It could be that Americans see the World Cup as the perfect excuse to finally go to “exotic” South Africa, which may also account for the higher interest in this World Cup,” notes Craig. “South Africa has been marketing the World Cup since the successful bid in 2004. The aim of the campaign is primarily, Destination Marketing: to promote South Africa’s culture and diversity, the unique combinations of experiences offered, to international travelers.   The tournament itself is a one-off event; South African Tourism sees the World Cup as a launching pad, and is looking beyond the tournament in pursuit of sustainable growth.”

Among the promotions is a South African Soccer-Themed Dance Contest for a trip to the World Cup in June. Diski Dance (www.southafrica.net/dance <http://www.southafrica.net/dance>) was created specifically for the World Cup. There have also been special air ticketing and travel promos.

With so much money at stake, the government wanted to, according to Craig, make sure Black Owned businesses, called BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) companies, have their share. “The Organizing Committee agreed to procure 30% of the products and services it needs from small businesses and BEE companies. Seventy percent of the procurement allocated to BEE companies and small businesses had to be allocated to smaller black enterprises – especially to co-operatives with a large number of female members, and small businesses of which women are key stakeholders,” says Craig. “Both FIFA and the Organizing Committee are trying to use, wherever possible, small or medium enterprises as service providers and there had been ample opportunities for them so far. We have also encouraged our partners to give preference to South African companies when doing their production.”

On that end,  the Master Concessionaire for food and beverages in the stadiums – South African company Headline Leisure Management– has trained more than 3,700 community staff for the FIFA World Cup to provide catering services for fans in the stadium venues. Among them, many of the so-called “mamas” selling normally food in front of the stadiums.

After the games, South Africa will be left in a better condition, according to Craig. The country will have “a much better transport infrastructure and upgraded transport capital stock, information and technology upgrades, and a significantly more experienced and coordinated tourism sector. Productivity should be improved by all three. More potential tourists will know about South Africa than would have been the case, and South Africa’s international profile should also be enhanced,” he says.