Thursday, January 28, 2010

Criticism of South Africa 2010 Valid?

So, this is going to be a great, fantastic event.

No, actually, this event will be a mess.

Pick your narrative.

Here is a story on England returning 6,000 unsold tickets to Fifa, which certainly doesn't sound like good news.

And here is a story on Fifa and South African officials complaining about negative media coverage and suggesting that some -- many of them in England and Germany -- have already decided 2010 will be a failure.

Well, let's consider some concepts.

Africa as a continent doesn't have much of a track record for international events. A rugby World Cup, and what else? No Olympics. No World Cups. Those are facts. Until now, neither the IOC nor Fifa felt confident enough in African bids to accept them -- and there haven't been many, actually.

Factor in South Africa's crime rate (particularly its daily average of 50 murders, second-highest rate in the world), and the terror attack on the Togo team while it was in Angola this month, resulting in three deaths ... and a reasonable person might be expected to wonder if it is a safe destination.

And certainly, it seems hard to discount the reality that getting to South Africa will be quite expensive for people from Europe, which constitute the hard core of international fans, or from the United States, which has more money than the rest of the world.

On the other hand ... the European media does have a reputation for trashing any events set outside its borders. Even events in the U.S., Canada and Japan -- First World countries all -- get attacked by European media, particularly from England and France. That's what they do. If it's not Euro, it sucks. That's the point of departure.

In 1994, the World Cup in the U.S. was widely predicted to be a failure, and it set an attendance record (with fewer matches than currently are scheduled) that still stands. Japan and South Korea put on a fine World Cup in 2002.

But, and this is a big but ... Africa has no track record of successful global sports events. There is no history. South Africa can change that. But for now, it probably needs to show a little tougher hide when it comes to criticism. The country will have a month to show what it can do.

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