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10 June 2009

The urban legacy of 2010

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
Press Release

With precisely a year to go before the start of the 2010 FIFA* World Cup, is it too late or too soon to talk about what legacy the mega-event will leave behind?

Comprehensive HSRC research to be released this week

The FIFA* World Cup is the world’s largest sporting and media event. The 2010 World Cup in South Africa will attract more than 26.29 billion television viewers, without counting those who access the event via the internet and through mobile phones. World Cups are extraordinarily profitable for FIFA through the sale of television rights and via corporate partners and sponsors.

The same, however, cannot always be said for host countries and cities. Economic projections in the form of material benefits are invariably inflated, and there is much debate regarding whether World Cups are beneficial or detrimental to a host country’s economy. According to the South African government, the 2010 World Cup is meant to assist in promoting economic development, halving unemployment and mitigating poverty. There is also huge potential benefit in terms of improving international perceptions of the host country, and in nation-building. South Africa has the opportunity to contradict commonly held representations of Africa by promoting a contemporary, reinvigorated image of the continent. So who is ultimately going to benefit from the 2010 World Cup, and how?

Development and Dreams: The urban legacy of the 2010 World Cup (HSRC Press) explores these issues through an accessible, interdisciplinary approach that will appeal to a broad range of readers, from academics and planners to all those with an interest in the event.

The FIFA World Cup is a mega-event at the summit of a hierarchy of sporting events, and there is considerable pressure from governments to not only win the host bid, but to then deliver the stadiums, support infrastructure and other necessary facilities. Often, traditional participatory planning processes are by-passed by an aggressive corporate sports-media-business focus and alliance. The competition within a country between cities lobbying vigorously for host city status also puts governments under intense political pressure. This also has consequences for processes of consultation and participation.
Mega-sporting events such as the World Cup, held in a developing country, can be perceived as symbolic representations of prestige and power. Undoubtedly, the 2010 World Cup has provided South Africans with a wonderful opportunity to air a range of views, some directly related to the event and others peripherally but no less connected. With its research-driven approach, Development and Dreams focuses on many of the topics inspired by these debates.

The first section of the book, “The build-up”, provides the backdrop for the narrative – it describes Football World Cups in the context of mega-events. It outlines the evolution of football in South Africa, reflects on past racial divisions as a basis for the ultimate unification of football in the country, and maps the winning bid for the 2010 World Cup. It also explains the institutional arrangements for managing the event, and provides a framework in which to situate the key themes of the book: the material and intangible consequences of the World Cup on South Africa’s cities.

The second section, “Development”, explains and questions the more tangible development impacts. It includes a comparison between South Africa and Germany (which hosted the previous World Cup), and includes  essays expressing concern about uncertain economic benefits and the potential for poverty reduction. The displacement of people (by stadiums), the urban-rural divide and sports tourism are also featured in the mix.

The third section, “Dreams”, explores the less tangible hopes and aspirations associated with the 2010 World Cup. The hopes and expectations associated with the event are myriad. Approaching the subject from social and cultural perspectives, the chapters consider expectations of benefit, African identity and gender.

Four main viewpoints emerge. The first is that the contribution of the 2010 World Cup to economic development and the reduction of unemployment in South Africa has been overstated. The second is that host cities and the economy may benefit from expedited investment in transport and information and communication technology. The third viewpoint expresses doubt regarding the value of the investment in stadiums and their subsequent financial sustainability. The fourth considers the intangible legacy of the event, and whether it will be viewed as a success or not. In the case of the former, it could significantly contribute to reducing Afro-pessimism.

Major sporting events have an extraordinary capacity to generate powerful shared experiences, to enhance nation-building and to provide the space for potential reshaping of cities and societies. And they make people talk. The 2010 World Cup has allowed South Africans to speak to each other, especially at a time of much political uncertainty and social stress.

Development and Dreams: The urban legacy of the 2010 World Cup (HSRC Press) stems from a research project of the Centre for Service Delivery at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) that was co-funded and supported by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA). The project has delivered a publication that contributes to the conversation South Africans have been having as a nation, providing reflective insight into some of the key issues associated with the event. It explores issues of legacy, and affirms the value of research in discourses on planning and development.

* Federation Internationale de Football Association

Development and Dreams: The urban legacy of the 2010 World Cup is edited by Udesh Pillay, Richard Tomlinson and Orli Bass. Copies of all of HSRC Press published titles are available from leading booksellers nationally, and for sale or free download from the online bookshop at:

Dr Udesh Pillay is Executive Director of the Centre for Service Delivery at the HSRC. He holds a PhD in Geography from the University of Minnesota. Prior to joining the HSRC, he was Head of the Delimitation and Planning Directorate of the Independent Electoral Commission.
Professor Richard Tomlinson is Chair of Urban Planning in the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at the University of Melbourne. Prior to joining the University of Melbourne, he was Visiting Professor at the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Dr Orli Bass is with the Centre for Critical Research on Race and Identity at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She was previously a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Centre for Service Delivery at the HSRC.

For a review copy of the book, contact:

Karen Bruns

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