No golden World Cup legacy for South Africa

Tue Jun 3, 2014 11:26am EDT
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By Mfuneko Toyana

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Four years after the World Cup, Soccer City stadium stands out against the drab skyline of south Johannesburg, a multi-colored mosaic of steel and glass set against the yellow-dust mine dumps of a century-old city built, literally, on gold.

On many weekends, the 94,000-seater venue that hosted key games during the 2010 tournament is pumping, either with the roars of soccer fans or chant of concert-goers, an example of enduring, direct returns accrued by host nation South Africa.

The stadium, which underwent a 1.5 billion rand ($150 million) facelift for the event, comfortably pays its own way, according to its website, with fixtures ranging from Soweto soccer derbies to concerts by the likes of Lady Gaga and U2.

In December, it hosted a mass memorial for late anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, and last month was the venue for a massive rally by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to crown their election campaign.

However, Soccer City stands out in another, crucial way.

Of the nine other venues built or renovated for the World Cup to the tune of 10 billion rand - a quarter of the overall budget - all are in the red, unable to attract regular top sporting clashes or international rock stars.

The bill for their up-keep falls on cash-strapped municipalities, a salutary lesson for Brazil, where hundreds of thousands have protested, sometimes violently, against state spending on this year's tournament, which starts on June 12.

Brazil's anti-World Cup movement argues that the $11.7 billion earmarked for Cup-related spending - three times South Africa's budget, even though only $7 billion has actually been disbursed - would have been better used on hospitals, schools and public transport.   Continued...

Ghana's Mubarak Wakaso (R) celebrates his goal after taking a penalty kick past Cape Verde goalkeeper Dias Josimar Vozinha during their African Cup of Nations (AFCON 2013) quarter-final soccer match at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, February 2, 2013. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko