South Africa has spent billions of dollars on its World Cup stadiums, but what will happen when the soccer stars leave next week? Will the stadiums bruise South Africa's economy or will they find new life as rugby stadiums?
By some estimates, South Africa has spent $6 billion on projects such as building stadiums and repairing roads in preparation for the World Cup. A stadium in in Nelspruit cost $137 million, even though only four games were played at the site. Polokwane now has a souped-up stadium that can hold more than 40,000 people, but it will cost $2 million in maintenance costs annually. Who will pay for that maintenance, critics wonder?
Udesh Pillay, co-author of “Development and Dreams: The Urban Legacy of the 2010 FIFA World Cup", told BusinessWeek the stadiums have to "host between 12 and 15 sellout events annually, with tickets being sold at an average price of between 200 and 250 rand ($30 to $32), to be sustainable."
Would South Africans see more soccer at these expensive stadiums post-World Cup? Jean-Francois Mercier, an economist at Citigroup Inc. in Johannesburg, said in an interview with BusinessWeek: "The problem with soccer in South Africa is that it is not a high-paying spectator sport or a high sponsor-attracting sport." He thinks rugby is more popular than soccer, allowing for stadiums to be used year-round.
The rugby trend may get off to a great start tomorrow when the South African Rugby Union will announce that the Aug. 21 match between the Springboks, South Africa’s national rugby team, and New Zealand’s All Blacks will occur at Soccer City, the stadium to host the World Cup Final on July 11.
Green Point Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa
As much as rugby is being seen as a saviour to these white elephants, South Africa should look to the Olympics for lessons in architectural misuse. The Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing, popular during the 2008 Summer Olympics, has housed athletes only once since the opening ceremony, GlobalPost reports.
South African President Jacob Zuma painted a rosy picture of the World Cup's economic success. On Tuesday he told reporters , according to AP: "[The world] has seen the precision when it comes to planning and logistical arrangements. They have seen the efficiency of our security infrastructure and infrastructure. Basically, our planning over many years is paying off and we are happy."
He added around 66,000 people received new construction jobs as a result of stadium construction.