Thursday, Dec. 09, 2010

South Africa's World Cup

For months in advance of this summer's soccer World Cup in South Africa, the international news media questioned the African nation's ability to viably host the world's most popular sporting tournament. This was the first World Cup staged on the African continent, and there were myriad concerns: Would new stadiums be completed in time? Would the country's infrastructure be adequate for the tens of thousands of fans descending on South Africa? Would security measures be sufficient in a nation with a notorious reputation for violent crime? The tournament's start was far from propitious — Nelson Mandela, the pioneering antiapartheid leader, former President and ardent soccer fan, withdrew from the opening ceremony after his great-granddaughter died in a car crash. But despite a few initial setbacks, the negativity that preceded the event dissipated after it got under way. For four weeks in the summer, South Africa was the scene of one of the most successful World Cups in recent memory, animated by jubilant crowds, some sparkling performances — particularly from an enterprising Ghanaian side and the eventual champions, Spain — and a rancorous global debate over the noisy vuvuzela. By the time of the final, Mandela was beaming from the sidelines and the cynics had shut up shop — after all, who would listen to them when a psychic octopus was calling all the shots?