By the time you read this, the World Cup in Germany will be nearing its conclusion. At the time of writing, Africa's representatives, Cote D'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and Tunisia were struggling to make the second round.
But while the focus of the majority of people watching the tournament was on the entertainment provided on the field, many others were studying the organisation of the tournament. There was a strong delegation from South Africa, including entrepreneurs, examining the nuts and bolts of staging such a massive global event.
In four short years, Africa gets the highly sought after opportunity of showcasing the best it can offer to the rest of the world when its hosts the next tournament.
But the glare of publicity is a double-edged sword. The spotlight picks out not only the best but also the worst. As this tournament in Germany and the others before it clearly demonstrate, the World Cup is not confined within the perimeter of the playing fields. The whole country is involved.
South Africa can expect hundreds of thousands of supporters from practically all corners of the world to descend on the nation. With them will come battalions of the media, print, radio, television and internet. All will come with high expectations for their national teams' successes and all will come determined to have a good time. Some will come to cause trouble. South Africa will have to plan carefully how to deal with these disruptive elements--some of whom will be South African citizens themselves.
More importantly, the majority of the visitors will know little or nothing about South Africa and its people. It will be important to make sure that the ordinary citizens play their part by being welcoming and friendly to the visitors.
Restaurants, cafes, retail shops, car hire firms and hotels might be tempted to overcharge in trying to make a killing but the government must ensure that this does not happen. It leaves a sour taste in the mouth and casts the whole country in a negative light.
It is also likely that the unique commercial and merchandising opportunities that will come in the wake of the World Cup will lead to a stampede to make the most of the occasion. While it will be desirable to allow an equal opportunity to the small enterprises, including street hawkers, to earn some real money, it will be essential that civic authorities control all trade and monitor the quality of food, beverages and merchandise put on sale. Everything will reflect...