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The World Cup bid book fiasco

South Africa’s World Cup bid book, the cornerstone of the country’s successful application to host the World Cup, is a curious mélange of hyperbole and underestimation.

Click here to view the bid book

Included in it is former president Thabo Mbeki’s letter to Fifa president Sepp Blatter, suggesting that a World Cup on African soil “will provide a powerful, irresistible momentum” to a ‘resolute African Renaissance”. That might be embarrassing enough were it not for some of the gross miscalculations on the projected expenditure of taxpayers’ money on infrastructure such as stadiums.

The refurbishment of Soccer City, for example, was projected to cost about R220-million, according to the bid book. It was eventually completed at a cost of more than R3,3-billion.

It’s no wonder the bid book has been secreted away from the public eye, despite attempts by the likes of the University of Cape Town’s democratic governance and rights unit, using the Promotion of Access to Information Act, to make it available.

The Mail & Guardian has seen a copy of the book and it makes for depressing reading. The initial amount budgeted for all stadium upgrades and refurbishments was R1,1-billion.

The eventual cost, with Cape Town’s Newlands stadium and Durban’s Kings Park discarded in favour of newly built stadiums, amounted to about R16,5-billion. This despite the book claiming the budget was ‘meticulously costed to provide an accurate budget value”.

South Africa’s World Cup bid book, the cornerstone of the country’s successful application to host the World Cup, is a curious mélange of hyperbole and underestimation.

Included in it is former president Thabo Mbeki’s letter to Fifa president Sepp Blatter, suggesting that a World Cup on African soil “will provide a powerful, irresistible momentum” to a “resolute African Renaissance”. That might be embarrassing enough were it not for some of the gross miscalculations on the projected expenditure of taxpayers’ money on infrastructure such as stadiums.

In an interview with the M&G Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe suggested that increasing material costs had contributed to the escalation. It’s a common refrain among local municipalities. Yet these inflated costs become increasingly sinister when considering the 2005 Transparency International report on the $3-trillion (R23-trillion) global construction industry, which found it to be the most corrupt sector in the global economy.

The bid book suggests that a World Cup in South Africa will help heal a nation “brutalised by apartheid”. With the book estimating that revenue from ticket sales and local suppliers was expected to top R3-billion — most of which will go to the local organising committee after Fifa takes its cut — and with direct government spending likely to top R40-billion, it seems taxpayers have a long time to wait for the healing to begin.

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Niren Tolsi
Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist whose interests include social justice, citizen mobilisation and state violence, protest, the Constitution and Constitutional Court, football and Test cricket.

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