South Africa mulling over use of World Cup stadiums

South Africa mulling over use of World Cup stadiums

Last Updated: Tue, Jul 13, 2010 05:48 hrs
Ellis Park Stadium

Johannesburg: The World Cup is finally over and South Africa woke up to a grim reality Monday -- what to do with all the multi-million dollar football stadiums that caught the eye of the soccer world.

In all, 10 stadiums were either built or refurbished, pumping in $2 billion, for the month-long football extravaganza.

After a few hiccups, the breathtaking state-of-the-art stadiums in Port Elizabeth, Durban, Cape Town and the Soccer City in Johannesburg were ready.

Now with the show over, the question being asked is whether the nation could afford such facilities in a country where several people are crying for basic amenities like sanitation, health and education.

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"Football is not a big sport in South Africa and I don't think the money generated from our football league is enough for the maintenance of the the stadiums after the World Cup. I wonder what use the stadiums will now be of," Anna Foster, a sports management student at the Johannesburg University, which is adjacent to one of the venues Ellis Park, told IANS.

Anna's classmate James Roberts, however, is optimistic.

"See the Ellis Park was used basically for Rugby, but it also hosts football matches of Orlando Pirates. I hope local football matches will now attract more spectators," James said.

President Jacob Zuma said the stadiums would be used for football, rugby and cricket leagues.

Zuma said the venues should be seen as the country's investment to bid for the 2020 Olympics.

"We are also looking to get foreign soccer stars to come and play here. There are a number of plans in place to make the stadiums useful," he said.

But conservatives are not willing to buy his argument.

"The World Cup made us crazy. Money was spent carefully. I think the government will have a tough time in maintaining the stadiums. They will soon turn into white elephants," said Anton Harber, professor at the University of Witwatersrand.

The city of Polokwane, which is three-hour drive from Johannesburg, has the ultra modern 40,000-seater Peter Mokaba Stadium for a five-lakh population. The annual maintenance of the stadium will come to $2 million and that in a town which has no football team!

The same is the case with Cape Town's Green Point Stadium, situated between Table Mountain and Robben Island.

In 2006, a government study found the stadium's location was of little use for the residents as it can hardly generate any revenue. The report felt renovation of the nearby stadium would have saved the government enough money to construct 250,000 homes for the city’s poor.

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