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FIFA: Table Mountain or bust January 18, 2007

Posted by Andreas in Cape Town, South Africa.
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Aestetics are important, but are they worth more than R2.5 billion? Fifa, the world soccer association, appears to be insisting that the Cape Town venue for the 2010 Soccer World Cup be positioned just right to have Table Mountain as its backdrop.

The initial South African bid for the 2010 included an upgrade of the existing Newlands rugby stadium (current capacity: 50 900) as the venue for Cape Town. According to the Mail & Guardian, “it was [subsequently] decided to propose Athlone Stadium as the city’s preferred venue. The city spent R322-million on upgrading Athlone, in the hope that Fifa would approve it for a World Cup quarter-final.”

Well, they didn’t. The Mail & Guardian quotes an anonymous ‘senior government source’ as saying that

during their inspection in October 2005, Fifa delegates objected that the low-cost council housing around the Athlone stadium would not form a suitable backdrop. “A billion television viewers don’t want to see shacks and poverty on this scale,” one delegate allegedly said.

Understandable, isn’t it, who would want to be confronted the ugly truth about poverty in South Africa?

Then we were told that the old Green Point stadium would be upgraded. Also not good enough. The current plan is to build a brand new 68 000-seater stadium (original budget: ~R2.5 billion; current quote by preferred bidder Murray and Roberts: R3.7 billion) right next to the old Green Point stadium. Why? Because from this vantage point you get the best photographic angle of the new venue with Table Mountain in the background.

We’re moving the stadium 200 metres to the left to get a better photo op!

Personally I’m quite sceptical of South Africa hosting the World Cup in the first place. I just don’t think it’s in our best interest financially, environmentally or developmentally.

Don’t get me wrong, I love soccer. I play it every Wednesday evening at what I reckon must be one of the most beautiful sports fields anywhere in the world (well, let’s just say I try my best to imitate someone who knows how to play the game). The view from the field looks something like this (thanks to Manfred Leiter of Munich, Germany, for the pic):

Twelve Apostles

If South Africa is to host the World Cup, though, why can’t we at least do so on our own terms and with our own priorities? If this World Cup is meant, at least in part, to benefit the local population, the new stadium should be located in the poorer, underdeveloped parts of town that need the infrastructure.

Under the current plan, we’ll end up with a huge stadium (in Germany 2006, only the Berlin stadium with a capacity of 72 000 was bigger than the one planned for Green Point) miles away from the local soccer fans who will never fill it for domestic fixtures after the World Cup anyway.

I’m sure someone will benefit from this deal, but it won’t be ordinary Captonians and definitely not poor Captonians!

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