The L.A. Times declares South Africa “the nation” is the World Cup’s biggest winner, praising the tournament’s “vibrancy and enthusiasm, and its ebullient African style.” Certainly, South Africa put on a good show, and proved wrong the critics who chastised FIFA for awarding the tournament to a country many feared couldn’t provide adequate security or logistical support.
But South Africa’s ability to pull it all together for six weeks doesn’t mean the World Cup will be a net benefit to the country in the long term. As the ESPN video below explains, South Africa’s government spent $6 billion on the tournament. Tournament-related revenues are expected to fall well short of that figure. Some of the hundred million dollar stadiums built for the tournament won’t get much use now that the games are over. The video points to one stadium built for the tournament which will likely remain vacant—it sits over over slums that lack running water.
Fond memories of the month South Africa performed marvelously on the world stage are nice. But $6 billion is a lot to pay for a memory. These spectacles—the World Cup and the Olympics—are nearly always money losers. They’re a lousy investment in wealthy countries. They’re particularly garrish in countries that aren’t as affluent. Economist Robert Baade ends the video with a strained search for a scenario where South Africa benefits from hosting the tournament in the long run. He doesn’t sound hopeful.
(See Reason.tv on stadium welfare here.)