...the most sanitised world cup ever?
19.06.2010 - 03.07.2010 22 °C
Has the world just witnessed the most sanitised/homogenised World Cup experience ever? An experience so at odds with what ordinary residents/travellers experience? I arrived in South Africa with hazy memories of a family trip to Kenya almost 20 years ago when I was 8 years old, so perhaps my expectations held the slight air of unrealism borne of fond childhood memories. However, having spent the last 2 weeks of June in various South African cities I was struck by how "un African" it all seemed.
Trying to explain what I expected an African World Cup to constitute is no more realistic than visitors to England expecting afternoons to halt for tea to be taken and residents to munch fish and chips nightly. Living in a country where the media delighted in proclaiming that attendees would be victims of some form of violent crime or random mugging and transport difficulties of Homeric magnitudes, I was mentally prepared and somewhat excited to prepare for the worst. As my best friend and I visited Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban we were struck by how infrequently we felt at any risk, how inherently European or North American our experience seemed. Everything was orderly, clean and brand new. As a supporter of Tottenham Hotspur the walk from the train station to Soccer City Stadium to see Germany vs. Ghana was more orderly with less menace than the walk out of White Hart Lane Station:
Perhaps the worst examples of this disneyfication was at the stadiums where concessions were sold to the highest (non African) bidder and vuvuzelas were the only genuinely African element added to the viewing experience. Two of the last major global sporting events (Beijing Olympics - 2008) and the 2010 World Cup have been appropriated as coming of age events where grand pronouncements regarding the respective countries ability and stage of "development" was announced on the world stage. The World Cup had the added boon of serving as more of a continental than national triumph. However, the immense sums of money spent does not portend well for London 2012 which may as well brand itself the Austerity Olympics.
I would be interested to hear the views of other travellers to the World Cup or current residents of South Africa. Are the trains still running on time? Has the traffic worsened now schools are back? Perhaps it was preparing an event with an expectation of what the attendees would like, or it was the only way in which to ensure an orderly month of football, but some of the spirit I was hoping to experience seemed lacking (lets blame it on Bafna Bafna exiting early)!
If the "authenticity" of the travel experience is derived from the terroir of the land and its people, then we did see some stunning sights:
and meet some interesting people (however, even the Robben Island trip held the faintly ridiculous air of follow the leader):
Our experience would have been better served had the residents stopped asking "are you having a good time, will you come back" and just let things run its course.