Was the World Cup worth it? A year down the road from Africa's big football festival, the debate still rages over the huge amounts of money it took for South Africa to stage the Fifa 2010 World Cup. Tom Nevin appraises the arguments.

Position:South Africa
 
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A year after the last 'Ole!' and Spain's lifting of the 2010 soccer World Cup silverware, South African companies, institutions and government departments have a reasonably good idea about how the country fared financially from the global foot-ballfest. High turnover in hotels, amenities and merchandise, and resulting handsome revenues, go with the territory awarded the games.

There is no doubt that the World Cup was a success in its planning and execution: "one of the best", enthused Fifa supremo Sepp Blatter of the final reckoning on the execution of the complex and crowded match agenda.

But did the tournament make the kind of starry-eyed money dreamed of when South Africa was awarded the event's hosting? No one, apart from Fifa, walked away with billions of dollars in fees and other income. The organisation was quick to point out that its $4.2bn revenue from the games would be used to tide it over until the next championship four years hence, and for the furtherance of the sport worldwide. But at issue is the 12-month analysis of whether or not the Cup brought some much-needed income along with the kudos that flowed freely from an admiring global community.

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"We did make money," says Michael Deftereos, managing director of the event's master concessionaire Headline Leisure Management, "but we didn't make what we'd budgeted for, or hoped for."

'Less than expected' said it all for most involved financially in the football spectacular, but what cannot be gainsaid is the value in terms of raising the South African profile as an investment and tourism destination. And what was the World Cup's impact on South Africa's gross national product? That is a hard one, because the Cup-induced flow of income was bedevilled by the financial ebb of the recession, the effects of which are still being felt.

According to Tourism SA, 309,554 visitors from around 34 countries arrived for the Work Cup, while at least 500,000 had been expected. The 2008/09 global economic slump was largely blamed for the stay-aways and for those who came to watch their teams and went home where their sides were eliminated.

But South Africans were grateful for the World Cup, nonetheless, if only for upgraded roads, new transport services, world-class arenas and such basics such as water supply, electricity and sanitation - few if any of which would have received special attention, had it not been for the Cup occasion. In the end, says...

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