Everything became possible

 

The 2010 FIFA World Cup™ changed the world's perception of South Africa. Photo © Cape Town Tourism

Africa’s first World Cup inspired the world, and as a country and a city we passed the test with flying colours.

The tournament was a time South Africans will never forget. And it changed the world’s perception of our country, and city, forever.

The world had been warned to expect high levels of crime and rampant overpricing, unfinished stadiums and a lack of infrastructure and accommodation, but what football fans found when they came to South Africa was vastly different.

“They came and discovered that we are a winning nation of very humble, hospitable people,” President Jacob Zuma said shortly after the event. “They learned too that we are very efficient organisers and planners.”

President Zuma’s words were testament to the massive team effort that went into hosting one of the world’s biggest sporting events for the first time on the African continent. South Africa came together as a country, worked together, shared together and succeeded together, proving the truth of Scottish-American entrepreneur and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie’s words, “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision, the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organisational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”

And uncommon results they most certainly were. When FIFA President Sepp Blatter gave South Africa nine out of ten for having organised a successful tournament, he put his seal on the concept of “everything is possible”.

“You have shown the world that you can achieve anything, and it’s time now that you show the rest of Africa that it can achieve anything,” he said.

The tournament created about 695 000 jobs and had a gross impact of R94-billion on the country’s economy. More than 350 000 tourists visited the country to watch or be part of it. And the infrastructure that was created, including improved airports, roads and stadiums, will assist in the country’s long- and short-term development goals.

Cape Town extended a warm welcome to visitors during the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. Photo © Cape Town Tourism

Among the many records that were achieved during the 30-day event were never-before-seen TV viewership figures. Seven hundred million people globally watched the final alone – more than the 600-million who watched the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. And 28-billion cumulative viewers watched the soccer tournament around the world, representing R2-billion in “free” international advertising for South Africa during the World Cup. That’s the equivalent of almost 18 000 half-minute TV commercials in Generations, the country’s most expensive TV programme, or 4 500 full-page advertisements in the Sunday Times.

Even more impressive was the publicity South Africa received on the internet, where football-related websites were receiving up to 12-million visitors a minute at times – easily an all-time online record and far exceeding internet activity when Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. The FIFA.com website had 150-million unique visitors during the World Cup, three times as many as in 2006. Highly influential news service BBC News ran 120 online stories during the tournament; The Washington Post ran 48.

“Vuvuzela” and “makarapa” became world terms on Twitter and Facebook, in online articles, blog posts and blog comments. The total reach for electronic conversations discussing South Africa in relation to the World Cup in July was 147 880 000 people, with the estimated advertising value equivalency of this online “coverage” equating to R29.5-million.

But the most important spin-off of the tournament was the improved perception of South Africa abroad. The 64 matches around the country were attended by just over 3.1-million people – the third-highest in the history of the World Cup. About one third of the tickets were bought by international visitors, and the word of mouth feedback of these people to their family and friends was the most credible marketing South Africa could wish for, and free of charge. The country’s unique identity, personality and character were woven into the soccer reporting by the international media, creating a new and vastly improved image of South Africa that simply couldn’t have been achieved any other way.

Cape Town Tourism played a vital role in changing the image of Cape Town abroad. Careful strategic and operational planning, enthusiastic teamwork, and the inclusion of all stakeholders, from the citizens of the city to media and businesses, ensured that the Mother City provided a warm welcome that would live in the minds of visitors for years to come.

We know that these overwhelmingly positive impressions will not only encourage visitors to return, but also open up Cape Town and South Africa to a whole new wave of tourists. As President Zuma said, “This has been the start of a lifelong friendship. We invite all our visitors to return soon to explore South Africa further. This is your home.”