Sunday, 3 January 2010


World Cup a platform for peace, democracy and investment, says Ban Ki-Moon.

The FIFA World Cup, which will take place between June 11 and July 11 next summer in South Africa, offers the country a unique opportunity to present a new image of itself (and the African continent as a whole) to the world, in the thoughts of UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon.

Recognizing the far-reaching effects that the World Cup has, and its status as one of the greatest global spectacles, Mr Ban has encouraged the World Cup organizers to seize this unique hosting opportunity to “present a different story of the African continent, a story of peace, democracy and investment”.

These words were spoken at a recent meeting in New York with Dr Danny Jordaan, the chief executive of the South Africa 2010 organizing committee. Dr Jordaan echoed Mr Ban’s sentiments by highlighting the power of football to unite and create a lasting solidarity.

The vision of hosting the World Cup began in 1994, when, following years of apartheid and bloodshed that accompanied brutal white rule, the first non-racial democratic elections took place and saw Nelson Mandela sworn in as President.

The legacy of apartheid has ensured that the transition to democracy has not been smooth, and in reality South Africa remains a troubled country. There are legitimate security concerns for hosting next summer’s showpiece event. South Africa’s justice ministry has this week announced that they will set up fast-track courts to deal with crimes committed during the World Cup that involve foreigners.

This will enable victims of crime to give evidence while still in South Africa, and the hope is that the perpetrators, fearful of potentially swift retribution, will be deterred from criminal activity in the first place.

In spite of the security issues however, the World Cup vision has been realized and next summer’s finals will be the first to take place on African soil.

Mr Ban’s exhortation to South Africa to utilize the benefits of hosting football’s greatest event is rooted in his observations of his own country’s experience in 2002, when South Korea and Japan co-hosted the first Asian World Cup (this at a time when Korea was still suffering from the consequences of the Asian financial crash of 1997).

A survey carried out amongst foreign CEOs established that the predominant image of Korea prior to 2002 was one of corruption, social disorder and the Korean War with its consequent territorial division.

The hosting of the tournament, however, gave rise to many opportunities that firmly placed Korea’s advanced IT industry on global display, and revealed a nation committed to the highest standards of professionalism. The warmth of the local people towards foreign visitors was also noted.

Shortly after the World Cup (based on further surveys carried out which indicated a significantly increased interest on the part of foreign investors and buyers to do business in Korea) it was estimated that this enhanced global image of Korea could have a value approaching $6.5 billion to the national economy.

Image change, however, does not occur overnight. The view of Simon Anholt (a leading authority on managing and measuring national identity and reputation) is that altering national image requires a long-term commitment on the part of government, business and civil society. National image cannot be manipulated or managed purely by communication technology.

Nevertheless, hosting the World Cup does provide a unique opportunity and can be the cornerstone of a new beginning. As with Korea in 2002, South Africa will know that the being under such intense global scrutiny in 2010 will make a deep impact on how the country’s future is shaped.

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