Thursday, May 27, 2010

World Cup Offers More than Just Soccer

The 2010 FIFA World Cup is set to begin in two weeks in South Africa, representing the first time any African nation has ever hosted the quadrennial event. FIFA expects over 400,000 spectators from all over the world to attend, cheering on the 32 teams that survived the competitive qualifying rounds.

The benefits for South Africa are fairly obvious. The large influx of fans to the ten venue cities will no doubt strengthen local economies, as the tourists will require hotels, food, and souvenirs. Mega-sporting events like the World Cup also help improve the infrastructure of the host nations, as changes are needed to prepare the sites for great crowds.

There are hopes, though, that these benefits will not be limited solely to South Africa, but will extend beyond its borders to the rest of the continent. According to U.N. advisor Wilfred Lemke, "The World Cup in South Africa is a unique occasion to transform the African people's pride and enthusiasm into a positive dynamic of solidarity, tolerance, and development," building on the so-called 'African renaissance' currently taking place.

Many are also hoping that the attention on Africa will bolster support for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), 8 internationally agreed-upon goals aimed at development and ending poverty. Members of the UN Development Program (UNDP) see the event as an opportunity to spread awareness of the goals not only to South Africans, but to people all around the world. As the UNDP Director of Communications, Stéphane Dujarric, has said, "In the effort to achieve the MDGs, there are no spectators. Everyone is needed on the pitch to score the goals."

-Andrew Oestreich