Soccer City.

It was money well spent. This is how one economist reacted to the news that South Africa spent more than R27 billion on the 2010 World Cup.

Yesterday the government released the final report on the hosting of the 2010 Fifa World Cup stating it had spent over R9 billion on building and upgrading stadiums alone.

In return South Africa gained an “intangible legacy” from the first world football showpiece in Africa, the government said.

Transport was the biggest cost area, with about R10bn dedicated to improving road, rail and air links and a further estimated R3bn on the main ports of entry.

In the absence yet of any final definitive figures on how much was earned in total from being the host, the report said the World Cup had left an intangible legacy of pride and unity among South Africans and had changed the country’s image as undeveloped, crime-ridden and dangerous in the eyes of the rest of the world.

“To top it all, we didn’t have lions roaming the streets and we did have ATMs,” the report, published by the ministry of sport, added light-heartedly.

Economist Dawie Roodt agreed. “For R27bn I would host the World Cup anytime,” he said. “It was money well spent.

“It’s one of those things that are unprofitable but highly beneficial to the country. We hosted a magnificent World Cup and you can’t put a price on that. The legacy that we have gained is priceless.”

Roodt compared the World Cup spending to that of the spending on the Gautrain, saying that both were unprofitable but highly beneficial.

“You cannot do a normal calculation to work out if the country profited from the World Cup, because we have gained a long lasting legacy and that’s most important,” he added.

“The World Cup cost R27bn – that is less than 3 percent of the government’s total spending in a year. So in the bigger scheme of things it was well worth it.”

Another economist Mike Schussler said economically, South Africa was never going to make the money it spent on the 2010 World Cup back.

“Economically it doesn't make sense, but most sporting events don’t make money back and I think we have learnt this the hard way with the 2010 World Cup here,” he said.

“The hosting of the rugby, cricket and soccer world cups proved to the world that we can host big events in South Africa, but it was expensive, but I don’t think it’s all wasted money.”

Schussler added that R27bn at the time was over 1 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Initially South Africa predicted a R54bn boost to the economy as result of the World Cup, according to a study by risk analysis and finance company Grant Thornton, but that was a mid- to long-term projection.

Last year Fifa reported it made a R5bn profit from the 2007-2010 World Cup cycle and earned income of over R28bn from 2010 World Cup contracts.

Fifa said it spent over R9.2bn on the World Cup in South Africa and also gave R890 million to the World Cup Legacy Trust, a fund that supports grassroots football projects.

“The World Cup in South Africa was a huge, huge financial success for Africa, for South Africa and for Fifa,” Fifa president Sepp Blatter said last year as the world body published its own financial report.

While critics have said that such a huge outlay on a 30-day sports event was impractical for South Africa – and the final word on whether it was an economic success is still pending – the government could argue that it has already earned over R320m from the more than 300 000 tourists that visited for the World Cup.

The upgrade to much of South Africa’s transport infrastructure was a long-term investment, the government said.

But yesterday the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance chairman Wayne Duvenage said the legacy of roads in Gauteng where e-tolling is set for implementation was “bitter”.

“No one is saying we shouldn’t have hosted the World Cup but we could have used the money spent on it to build the roads,” he said.

The government said the report would serve as reference guide and benchmark for planning other major sporting events.

South Africa has said it is considering a bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, the biggest of all sporting events. -Saturday Star