It had to come sooner than later. The elation that swept through South Africa and the African continent after having won the 2010 World Cup with the chance to showcase the new Africa after decades of apartheid in South Africa and the nascent new democracies of many African countries (at least 15 governments after years of despotic rule), has given way to a familiar foe, western skepticism, who are of the opinion that South Africa will have to put in a Herculean effort to pull off the largest spectacle in the world successfully. In fact, there is a widespread belief that other venues are being contemplated, to be on the safe side.
We have to remember that the 2006 World Cup would have been held in South Africa if it had not been for a certain pusillanimous Charles Dempsey of the Oceania Football Federation, the delegate who was pressurized by many European federations, including the German Football Federation and the German media. Dempsey reportedly received threats to his and his family's life. His was a certain vote for South Africa (as instructed by his Federation)but he chose to abstain and the final count was 12-11 in favor of Germany. His vote would have deadlocked the count and Sepp Blatter with his tiebreaker would have voted for South Africa as widely believed. Instead, the continent of Africa experienced one of its bitterest moments of rejection, reflected in the words of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.
Now we have the same bloc or cabal that are casting aspersions on South Africa's ability to hold the 2010 World Cup. It is a familiar refrain echoed of all developing countries that are given the rare opportunity to host an event of this magnitude. South Africa does not have the infrastructure, the roads, the airports, hotels, and the stadia to host such a huge event. It has a high murder rate that will frighten off soccer fans. Corruption is endemic in government and is a victim to complex tribal politics. Unspoken in many of the reports that express this skepticism but which might just become an issue with the Euro cabal is the specter of AIDS and its prevalence in South Africa. This will be touted as an economic issue, i.e., South Africa should concentrate its resources on containing this problem, before becoming a health issue to the many tourists who will come to South Africa to watch the World Cup. Look for all these health advisories to come out in the next couple of years that will warn tourists of anything and eveything from the Hanta virus to the guineaworm.
So it is no wonder that these skeptics are considering alternate venues like Australia, the USA, and Mexico. Sepp Blatter being the consummate politician is up for elections in 2007. He needs the votes of the 57 African countries to continue on. Look for him to bag those votes and then start sounding like a doubting thomas if South Africa has a few hiccoughs on the way to hosting the World Cup.
This dog eat dog mentality is not just prevalent in this North- South divide, but it is true even for less fortunate European countries. Exactly two years ago, Greece was being pilloried by the IOC for not being upto the mark in preparation for the Summer Olympics. But Greece pulled it off and magnificently, I might add.
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