- Associated Press - Friday, November 23, 2012

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa spent more than $3 billion on the 2010 World Cup, and in return gained an “intangible legacy” from the first world soccer showpiece in Africa, the country’s government said Friday in its final report on the tournament.

In the “2010 FIFA World Cup Country Report,” released nearly 2½ years after the event, South Africa’s government said it spent $1.1 billion on building and upgrading stadiums alone.

Transport was the biggest cost, with $1.3 billion dedicated to improving road, rail and air links and a further $392 million on the country’s main ports of entry.

In the absence of any final definitive figures on how much South Africa earned in total from being the host, the report said the World Cup had left an intangible legacy of pride and unity among South Africans and had changed the country’s image as undeveloped, crime-ridden and dangerous in the eyes of the rest of the world.

“To top it all, we didn’t have lions roaming the streets and we did have ATMs,” the report, published by the ministry of sport, added light-heartedly.

It did predict a $6 billion boost to South Africa’s economy as a result of the monthlong World Cup, according to a study by risk analysis and finance company Grant Thornton, but that was a mid to long-term projection.

FIFA reported it made a $631 million profit from the 2007-10 World Cup cycle and earned income of $3.65 billion from 2010 World Cup contracts. FIFA said it spent $1.298 billion on the World Cup in South Africa and also gave $100 million to the World Cup Legacy Trust, a fund that supports grassroots soccer projects.

“The World Cup in South Africa was a huge, huge financial success for Africa, for South Africa and for FIFA,” FIFA president Sepp Blatter said in 2011 as the world body published its own financial report.

While critics have said that such a huge outlay on a 30-day sports event was impractical for South Africa — and the final word on whether it was an economic success was still pending — the government could argue that it had already earned over $400 million from the more than 300,000 tourists that visited for the World Cup.

The upgrade to much of South Africa’s transport infrastructure was a long-term investment, the government said.

The expensive World Cup stadiums are still underused, however, and some are losing money. The Cape Town Stadium — reportedly the most expensive of the seven new venues at $600 million — is in the most trouble.

“This report will also serve as a reference guide and benchmark for planning other major sporting events,” South Africa’s government said in a statement to introduce the publication, which featured the 2010 World Cup logo and was embossed with shiny gold letters.

South Africa has said it is considering a bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.

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