Reuters, Wednesday, December 30, 2009 3:58 PM
Will South Africa's investment in World Cup stadiums prove worthwhile or stand as spectacular monuments to extravagance and waste in a country still struggling to spread the fruits of majority rule?
The nation is close to completing 10 top-class venues that bear comparison with the world's best, proving wrong skeptics who said the stadiums would never be finished in time for next June's
tournament. But the debate has not diminished over whether Africa's first World Cup should have been more modest, freeing up millions of dollars to help an army of poor who live in squalor 15 years
after the end of apartheid.
Critics say the money was wasted and should have been spent on alleviating poverty -- which feeds South Africa's frightening rate of violent crime -- building
millions of new houses to replace apartheid-era shanty towns and combating the world's biggest HIV caseload. They charge that many of the stadiums will quickly become unused relics after the
"When you build enormous stadiams, you are shifting those resources ... from building schools and hospitals and then you have these huge structures standing empty ... They
become white elephants," the late anti-apartheid campaigner Dennis Brutus
said in the recent documentary film Fahrenheit 2010.
The other side to the argument says the
World Cup gives Africa the chance finally to reverse stereotypes of famine, pestilence and war that still blight the continent. Nobel peace prize laureate and anti-apartheid hero Archbishop
has said the World Cup will have as big an impact for black people as the election of U.S. President Barack Obama
and will give new pride to a still
divided nation: "With all the negative things that are taking place in Africa, this is a superb moment for us. If we are going to have white elephants, so be it."
Economists say World Cup
construction has cushioned South Africa from the global recession and will contribute close to $7.3 billion to the economy. "It has been a huge blessing for South Africa in view of the recession,"
said Gillian Saunders
of business consultants Grant Thornton
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