SA 2010: What's the legacy?

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Even a month after the FIFA World Cup came to an end, the questions about the future of South Africa's tournament stadia were already at the top of the country's sporting news agenda. In August 2010, Cricket South Africa (CSA) ruled out the possibility of staging major international matches at the FIFA World Cup venues because the playing areas are too small to meet International Cricket Council (ICC) regulations.

Despite being 22 metres short on the square boundary, Durban's Moses Mabhida Stadium has been given special dispensation to host a Twenty20 game during India's upcoming tour of South Africa to mark the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Indians to the country. However, that will be a one–off. ICC regulations stipulate that the minimum distance of the pitch from the square boundary must be 137 metres, and 149 metres from the straight boundary. Forget about the small print for a moment though, and ask yourselves why the CSA, which already has access to some of the world's top cricket stadia, such as Kingsmead, The Wanderers and Centurion Park, would bend over backwards to shoehorn the sport into facilities built specifically for football. Wouldn't staging such games at the World Cup stadia simply have been bad news for other established cricket grounds in South Africa anyway? With operators of the 10 FIFA World Cup stadia struggling to pin down anchor tenants in football, cricket and rugby union, they have been left to scramble about for any events that can offset some of the facilities' exorbitant running costs. In football, attracting ABSA Premiership clubs has proved difficult, with the popularity of the domestic competition way below that of the national team or foreign leagues, and clubs wary of paying a hefty price for playing in sparsely–populated arenas. Meanwhile, the national governing bodies of cricket and rugby have pinpointed a lack of involvement in the initial planning process for the reason why their sports have been left peeking through the windows rather than making the buildings their homes. The venues at Polokwane, Rustenburg and Nelspruit had been pinpointed for a Twenty20 competition akin to cricket's DLF Indian Premier League, but CSA chief executive Gerald Majola made his feelings clear this week on why the plan had not come to fruition. "Historically, our game was not played in areas where some of the stadia were built, " he said. "We saw this as an opportunity, but unfortunately we were not part of the design process for the stadia. If we had met before the time and considered the issues we would have known that stadia would have been accommodating others sports as well. "Oregan Hoskins, president of the South African Rugby Union, echoed Majola's feelings that the South African sporting community as a whole should have had a say in proceedings from the early stages of the stadia design process, rather than simply being an afterthought. "What we are discussing today should have been discussed before we built the new soccer stadia, " he said. "It's tragic for us as a nation that we have to act in reverse gear. " The sorry situation leaves huge question marks over a number of the venues and particularly the stadia in Cape Town and Durban – two cities with ambitions of hosting the 2020 Olympic Games. The South African government splashed out around $1. 3bn to build and revamp 10 of the country's venues for the recently–completed World Cup. However, Member of Parliament Graham Mackenzie in July 2010 warned the parliamentary committee: "We have magnificent stadia and at the moment they are ranked No. 1 in the world. If we engaged other sports, we can ensure we don't have a legacy of white elephants. " Unfortunately though, while the World Cup was a roaring success in many ways and the organising committee should be congratulated for ensuring the country was ready to stage the tournament, the aftermath of the competition has again highlighted the complete lack of consideration afforded to all–important legacy issues by event hosts. The responsibility for this does not just lie with the organising committee; in fact, Danny Jordaan and his team had far more pressing matters to deal with before thinking of what would happen beyond the month–long window. The organising committee did what they had to do by making sure the tournament took place without a hitch. However, the country's government, and FIFA for that matter, should look in the mirror and ask themselves some serious questions. Let's start with the South African government, which is already under fire from various quarters for allocating so much money towards hosting a tournament that would, on the surface, appear to have done little to ease the country's more serious problems. The government has a duty to ensure these stadia do not become a drain on the resources of a nation that is still battling desperate poverty in many areas. To have spent billions on building arenas that would only be used during a one–month window could be seen as unfortunate, but to spend millions more on maintaining rarely–used stadia when the money could be better spent elsewhere would be simply careless. The government should obviously have thought about all of that before committing such funds to potential white elephants, but that is also where FIFA should have had some input. FIFA generates the bulk of its revenues through the World Cup. Regardless of whether the non–governmental organisation pumps all of its billions into football redevelopment or not, can FIFA really be satisfied to see the operators of the stadia – built for the World Cup alone – struggling to find long–term uses for the venues? As the footballing world got back to domestic business in the big leagues across Europe in August 2010, and everyone started to forget about what happened in Africa just a few weeks earlier, an event took place in Singapore that should provide FIFA and future World Cup hosts with a blueprint. Whilst grand designs are seemingly central to bidding strategies for the sporting world's leading events, only existing venues were used during the inaugural Youth Olympic Games. Why this is only considered to be a good idea for the youthful version of the Olympics is a mystery, as countless hosts of the Games have found in the past that it is extremely difficult to justify staging the event on the balance sheet alone. In cities and countries where no such venues exist, and new facilities are required, temporary venues need to become the rule rather than the exception. In Chicago's otherwise flawed attempt to win the hosting rights for the 2016 Olympics, one aspect that was not given the positive reception it merited was the idea of constructing a temporary main stadium for the Games. Following the Olympics, the stadium would have been dismantled, nullifying the burden of running costs for the city's taxpayers. Some of the venues at the London Olympics in 2012 will also be temporary, and there has been more of a consideration for such facilities over the past few years. However, now is the time to alter the common approach to hosting events, which are, by their very nature, temporary. Legacy is not just bricks and mortar, and legacy can be positive or negative. Simply retaining a stadium when it is not going to be used regularly enough to justify the outlay is clearly not a positive legacy. With that in mind, it would have been far better for South Africa to have erected a series of temporary stadia, saving billions in the process. This seemingly huge error of judgement has left the country with various venues that they don't really need. It should also be noted that these venues are expensive to maintain. It appears likely that many of the seats installed for the World Cup will never be occupied again, and that is sad legacy for all of the stakeholders involved in preparations for the tournament. World football's governing body completed its tour of 2018 World Cup bidder Russia, a leading candidate in the tender process. FIFA warned that, if Russia does end up receiving the go–ahead in December, work would have to start "immediately" to ensure the competition venues and the country at large would be ready on time. However, FIFA should also be aware that huge, money–sapping monuments, however impressive to the eye, can become a burden without careful planning. Constructing stadia that can be downscaled or pulled down should become the norm for countries where such venues are not already plentiful. It is, without question, the sensible thing to do. About The Sport Briefing This story has been reproduced with the kind permission of The Sport Briefing. The Sport Briefing is published by PA Sport and can be found at: www. thesportbriefing. comFor more information, email info@thesportbriefing. com or call +(0) 44 207 963 7888.

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