As Brazil’s World Cup nears we, as 2010 hosts, are looking better and better by the day, says Mike Wills.
Cape Town - The Fifa World Cup kicks off three weeks from tomorrow and the still incomplete venue for the opening game in São Paulo got its first test outing only last Sunday.
Everyone expected the Brazilians would run it fine in terms of construction deadlines, but this is getting silly.
The Brazilians are copping the routine doomsayer stuff which accompanies every major sporting event – crime, riots, chaos and even a major water shortage caused by a serious drought around São Paulo will be the order of the day if you believe everything you read. Search on Google for “Brazil World Cup problems” and you get over 41 million results.
Many will remember the lurid fate predicted by the sordid London tabloids for anyone venturing here in 2010, but we forget that those same red top bottom-feeders boldly forecast al-Qaeda horror, transport nightmares and massive public disinterest for their own, ultimately spectacular, 2012 Olympics.
I don’t have any serious doubts that the Samba World Cup eventually will be a rollicking spectacle, especially for those of us sitting comfortably in our sitting rooms and not paying a royal fortune for flights into crowded airports and to sit in stadiums that aren’t finished, but the interesting truth is that we, as 2010 hosts, are looking better and better by the day.
For all our angst and woes, the infrastructure was completed comfortably in time and the local organising committee, headed throughout by Danny Jordaan, delivered in a competent and confident manner with only one serious snafu – the flights chaos into Durban for the semi-final.
We did make big and expensive mistakes, especially in using too many host cities (nine) and too many stadiums (10) and in building too many new ones (five), but those are lessons which Fifa and Brazil chose to ignore for this year with 12 venues in 12 different cities and a ludicrous seven built from scratch.
The Brazilian local organising committee was initially headed by Ricardo Teixeira until he was forced out by a monumental corruption scandal and replaced by politician Jose Maria Marin, who is under intense scrutiny by the Brazilian equivalent of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for his alleged connections to torture during the decades of dictatorship from the mid-1960s.
Legendary former players like Zico and Romario were in the official processes and then got excluded and now are shouting loudly from the sidelines while Fifa secretary-general Jérôme Valcke (remember him?) goes greyer by the day trying to wrestle everything into the over-egged recipe prescribed by his world body.
We feared strikes during our World Cup and, as a result, gave ourselves some future fiscal problems by buying off the major unions, but in Brazil they’re more worried about major political protests against inequality in a country in which clashes with armoured police can assume epically violent proportions.
And those protesters have a powerful case as the final bill for Brazil is estimated to be, in dollar terms, three times South Africa’s in 2010 which is quite some escalation in only four years. Massive corruption has played a huge role in that bloated budget overrun.
I actually think it’s okay for us to take some pleasure in Brazil’s travails because it reminds us of what we did in 2010 and it confirms that such a successful hosting was neither automatic nor was it easy.
We can still reasonably debate whether we should’ve tackled that Fifa beast in the first place, but, given that we did, the outcome, in a collective sense of public spirit and practical achievement, stands alongside the 1994 election as our nation’s and our city’s finest hour.
* Mike Wills’ column Open Mike appears in the Cape Agus every Wednesday.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.