Monday, August 24, 2009

Cape Town Worried about Selling Itself

Cape Town is near the the southern tip of South Africa (and, hence, Africa) and is rivaled only by Johannesburg in global recognition among South African cities.

Cape Town is second in population, with 3.5 million residents, only to Johannesburg. It also is the No.1 tourist destination in Africa, having overtaken Cairo, according to this post at Wikipedia (which isn't the Encylopedia Brittannica, but generally is more right than wrong).

Cape Town also has a long history as the entre pot of European entry and expansion in the area and the focal point of the country for centuries, and sometimes is known as the country's Mother City.

Understandably, then, Cape Town is a host city (one of nine) for the 2010 World Cup. It also will be the site of the World Cup draw, on Dec. 4.

But some of those in Cape Town are worrying that the city is missing a chance to broaden and enhance its global image.

A local newspaper, the Cape Argus, today has a story on a local business leader suggesting Cape Town is botching its shot to re-brand itself on the international stage.

The leader is displeased that Cape Town began its World Cup campaign by calling itself "Africa's Party Capital."

The thinking seems to be that Cape Town already is known for its benign climate and recreational opportunities and is limiting itself by reinforcing its "good times" image when some business could get done.

The new slogan for Cape Town? "Ready to welcome the world." The critic prefers "Where the world meets." But he likes the new one better than the old, which he dismissed as trite, making Cape Town sound like some Southern Hemisphere version of Ibiza.

Having been through these things a time or three, I've noticed that it's natural for leaders in World Cup host cities to be nervous and easily agitated at the way their city is being promoted. If we called up people in Johannesburg, Durban, Pretoria, Rustenburg -- other World Cup cities, that is -- we certainly wouldn't have trouble finding someone with a title who is unhappy with how the promotional side of things is going down.

Those of us who focus on the sports side of things sometimes lose sight of these things. The civic boosterism that is part and parcel of the whole hosting process. The cities want something tangible to come out of all the effort.

It appears Cape Town is having a particularly nervous moment. "OK, foreigners know we're a nice place to visit. But how about letting them know this is a place where they can come do some business with us, as well?"

It's always something.

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