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Espana triumph in Egoli – the World Cup closes on a brilliant note!

A spectacular and glitzy 30 minute World Cup closing ceremony featuring a brief history of South African dance from gumboot dancing to Mapantsula jiving along with a gyrating Shakira performing live from a Madiba-blessed Soccer City in Johannesburg preceded the ferocious final showdown between Spain and the Netherlands. Whilst the closing ceremony was distinctly South African, ironically the finalists were European. A multitude of soccer fans on the Golden Mile in Durban showed their support for the two teams, sporting the Dutch Orange or the regal red and yellow Spanish colours as they partied along the beachfront during the match.

Though the 4 week festival of football has been hailed as a South African success and a memorable 2010 World Cup, not all days have been smooth sailing. With the semi-finals held on Wednesday 7th July, Durban’s new King Shaka Airport was put to a significant test with planeloads of Spanish and German fans unable to descend on the city for the match as aircrafts were diverted back to Johannesburg and Cape Town due to the sudden volume of private planes allowed to land at the new airport resulting in what the media labeled as a logistical fiasco with limited parking space available for the circling national airlines. As an airport, King Shaka is just two months old, a baby compared to existing international airports and whilst still finding its feet as a transit hub, is certainly no Schipol or Heathrow, designed to deal with high volumes of European air traffic. Disgruntled fans with semi-final match tickets that missed the game at the iconic Moses Mabhida stadium had no recourse for reimbursement. Germany was beaten by Spain in that Durban game, but recovered their sense of humour defeating the Uruguayans to take 3rd place in the Port Elizabeth playoff. The media-frenzied transport glitch has not derailed Durban’s vision to bid for the Olympic Games in 2020.

Although the long term effects of the 2010 FIFA World Cup is still to be accessed for South Africa, judging by the infectious atmosphere and enthusiasm displayed by patriotic citizens, the World Cup has captured the hearts of all South Africans and has made the nation proud as a country that successfully achieved a spectacular and relatively incident-free brightly lit African Event only dampened slightly by reports of those tragic attacks on spectators in Kampala watching the Sunday night finals in Uganda.

The FIFA World Cup provides an absorbing distraction for the realities in any country. In South Africa renowned for vast economic disparity, hosting the World Cup has provided pervasive and positive reasons for improving all urban infrastructures from Port Elizabeth to Polokwane, Durban to Cape Town. Johannesburg’s Soccer City has been a spectacular venue proving that this gold-enriched metropolis also known as Egoli has stepped up to the challenge of hosting world class international events. As the next three months loom ahead promising a football vacuum for South Africans it will be interesting to see what revealing issues start emerging which have been hibernating during the Southern hemisphere winter. With the South African municipal elections happening in 2011, the focus will shift from sport to grassroots politics tackling the endemic problems of crime, unemployment, political nepotism, corruption and local economic development which also plague the next host nation, Brazil where the World Cup will take place in 2014.

From the 9 host cities in SA in 2010 to the 12 host cities in Brazil in 2014 from the infamous Rio de Janeiro, to Durban’s sister city Curitiba to the coastal cities of Porto Alegre and Recife to the lesser known destinations of Manaus tucked away on the borders of the Amazon, Brazil has a huge road ahead brimming with similar challenges of hosting an equally astounding tournament matching the wonderful triumph of this very South African World Cup. While Spain jet off triumphantly with the diamond encrusted gold trophy back to Europe celebrating their victory, the dust settles on South Africa, counting the costs of such a massive event, praising the beneficial spinoffs and probing the areas which require improvement like air traffic control at King Shaka International. Undeniably in 2010, this World Cup has eclipsed Wimbledon and the British Grand Prix held at Silverstone, by the sheer factor that like the Olympics the time scale of such a massive event allows the host country or city four years to effectively plan and prepare.

Memories are forged, commentaries are made, stadiums are photographed and while South Africa has welcomed the world and dominated the international media as the darlings which have pulled off a superb victory to rival Sunday’s Spanish win. Sceptic eyes were on South Africa and it has shined brilliantly like the Kimberley diamonds,  gracefully handing over the World Cup spectacle to Brazil for 2014 along with the sense of pride, passion and national loyalty all integral for a successful host nation. While the victorious Spanish team departs for Madrid awaiting a royal welcome, the Dutch might languish and explore this land which they have contributed in forging a distinctly South African national identity. As for the winners, Espana have eclipsed in Egoli and emerged triumphant. May the next World Cup on African soil be in Morocco miles away from the winning nation’s sun-dappled Costa del Sol!

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