The World Cup in South Africa: Dream or Nightmare?

IE Focus | By Gildo Seisdedos, Professor at IE Business School

South Africa’s much-desired World Cup could turn into a nightmare if global coverage exposes the country’s weakest points.This year the World Cup will be held in Africa. For the first time in history, the world’s most coveted sporting event after the Olympics has gone to the African continent. Beyond the strong symbolism of the pictures of Nelson Mandela holding the trophy and the impressive athletic progress made by African soccer, an unanswered question remains: was it a good idea to take soccer so far away from its origins?

Events as drivers for territorial transformation
We live in times when everyone wants a piece of the action where sporting events are concerned. Why? We might have to look for the root of this growing demand in what some have called the “Barcelona effect”. An industrial city in decline, positioned rather poorly within the regional hierarchy, manages to turn itself into a world-class city for tourism and services thanks to the impact on its brand made by an ambitious urban redevelopment project that used the Olympics as a driver and a global showcase. What mechanisms lay behind this magic transformation? Big events are without a doubt an excellent opportunity to tackle a region’s lack of certain facilities or infrastructure, both of which can benefit from the impact of the magic and far-reaching legacy of a major sporting event.

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