The tenth anniversary of the end of apartheid has provoked a great deal of retrospective thinking especially in terms of how far South Africa has advanced, both nationally and internationally, since Nelson Mandela became the first truly elected representative of the people.
At the same time, economic growth has begun to pick up and now FIFA's decision to award the 2010 World Cup to South Africa is strengthening the feelings of optimism.
FIFA made it clear following the bidding for the right to host the 2006 competition that the 2010 World Cup would be awarded to an African country. South Africa lost out in the 2006 competition to Germany by just a single, highly controversial vote and was always the favourite to secure the subsequent tournament.
The 24 members of FIFA's executive committee comprise the electorate that decides where each tournament is held and so the bidding process consists of candidate nations attempting to persuade individual members to vote for them.
South Africa beat Morocco by a relatively close 14 votes to 10 for the right to host the event. The other remaining candidate, Egypt, failed to attract a single vote, despite the FIFA inspection group finding that "there is potential for an excellent World Cup to be staged in Egypt".
Tunisia had already been excluded over its plans to jointly host the tournament with Libya, while Libya, in turn, was rejected over its refusal to allow an Israeli team to play in Libya if it qualified for the World Cup. Nigeria expressed an initial interest in hosting the event in 2001 but later dropped out and threw its support behind the South Africa bid.
Morocco had a fairly strong case for selection, given that the kingdom has bid for the competition on numerous previous occasions. It also secured all four votes from African members of FIFA--Ismail Bhamjee of Botswana, Mamadou Diakite of Mali, Slim Aloulou of Tunisia and Issa Hayatou from Cameroon--but could not attract sufficient support from outside the continent. Several aspects of Morocco's bid were praised by FIFA, including the plan to finance the event itself, whilst using the FIFA money to fund the 'Football without Frontiers' project to develop the sport throughout Africa.
South Africa's success was founded upon the closeness of its 2006 bid and the possession of the best transport, accommodation and communications infrastructure in Africa.
The country also benefited from its success in hosting the 1995 rugby...