South Africa banks on lasting World Cup legacy

Tue Jun 8, 2010 12:21pm EDT
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By Marius Bosch

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa has spent tens of billions on hosting the World Cup, hoping to draw more tourists, boost investment and reverse the country's crime-ridden image abroad.

But the real benefits of holding the world's biggest single sporting event on the African continent for the first time will only be seen in years to come, analysts said.

The month-long World Cup which starts on Friday is expected to add around 0.5 percent to South Africa's GDP in 2010 and bring in 370,000 foreign visitors or less, reduced from an initial 450,000 estimate.

"South Africa has come alive, and will never be the same again after this World Cup," President Jacob Zuma said this week.

The World Cup has a big symbolic importance 16 years after the end of apartheid in a country which suffered racial inequality for decades and where millions of blacks still live in dire poverty.

The event has gone some way to draw people of all races closer together.

Across the country, white and black South Africans are united behind the national soccer squad Bafana, Bafana (The Boys).

South African flags adorn cars, fly from houses in traditional white areas and for months fans donned the national team's strip on a Friday.   Continued...

<p>A local child carries a ball while playing soccer at a dirt field in Soweto, Johannesburg June 7, 2010. The 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup kicks off on June 11. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko</p>