In a sad but not surprising development, South Africa recently announced that the World Cup didn’t bring in enough revenue as the government expected. It was a really special World Cup, being held in a great country on a fascinating continent, (and I was there!) both for the first time, but there were issues. The stadiums were spectacular, the vibes were cool (as you can ascertain in the article from the high number of visitors who said they’d come back or recommend South Africa to friends) and there were completely different fortunes for football powers which made for a lot of excitement (Spain, Germany) and controversy (France, England). Yet while the nation successfully clamped down on crime and the people were great hosts, it wasn’t hard to see there were pressing issues that the money spent on the World Cup, and many of those fine stadiums, could have been used on.
Now, let me clarify something. The World Cup made enough money all right, it made a ton of money due to “lucrative television and marketing deals.” It’s just that pretty much all of it went to FIFA, who also didn’t have to spend anything on the infrastructure (South Africa did). FIFA also played its role in exploiting the country, because while it was good enough to bring the World Cup to Africa, it wasn’t above benefiting from tax concessions from this same Cup, and the next one too, or enacting rules banning informal vendors from anywhere near the stadiums. All in all, I still feel that South Africa deserved to hold the World Cup. But the question is whether it was at a cost that was too high.