Will the 2010 World Cup Boost South Africa’s Economy?

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In recent decades, South Africa has been plagued by political turmoil, social inequality, and prevalent poverty. That’s why, when the country was awarded the 2010 World Cup, many South Africans, as well as people around the world, held high hopes that the tournament would bring economic benefits. While there are reasons to be optimistic, and many observers believe that South Africa will at least break even, the picture is not so simple.

These sporting events are always complicated. When you look at events such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics or the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, no one can seem to figure out whether or not China and Canada actually profited. Some argue that the games were a net loss due to their economic expenses and negligible tourism boost, but others say that the difficult-to-quantify measures make hosting such events well worth the cost. It’s more than likely that similar questions will surround this year’s World Cup.

However, there are qualities that set South Africa apart. It’s arguable whether Germany profited from hosting the 2008 World Cup, but most experts deny that there were any long-term effects. However, Germany is already the biggest, most robust economy in Europe which means that it can pretty much absorb the World Cup without any major positive or negative effects. South Africa, on the other hand, is a much smaller economy in which an event like this will make a much bigger splash. When Germany sees a few extra tourists, no one really notices. When South Africa gets them, it’s huge.

Plus, there’s the fact that the World Cup provides something that all South Africans (with a few exceptions, which we won’t get into) can get behind. The government has devoted substantial funds to making public-transit and infrastructure improvements in the host city, and these improvements are likely to benefit the populations of these cities for years to come.

And let’s not forget that these events create jobs. There are jobs that go along with those public-transit and infrastructure improvements, and there are also tons of jobs that go along with the event itself. One might point to the fact that most of these are just temporary jobs, but it’s important to keep in mind that these jobs provide an economic boost that leads to new opportunities, and it also gives people useful work experience that can be carried into the post-World Cup South African economy.

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