As we approach the end of the first World Cup on African soil, attention is turning to what legacy the tournament leaves for South Africa. I find myself constantly wrestling between my hopes and my cynicism. SA now has world class stadiums but who is going to use them? Many roads have been improved but are the majority who don't drive going to feel the benefits? Broadband internet capacity has increased but what good is that if you don't have access to a computer? Tourists have flocked to the country and spent their money but if you're not involved in the tourist industry, do you really benefit? The Gautrain has begun operating but this only serves a small section of Jo'burg society and the money spent could have been used upgrading the national rail network. It has been a month-long party but has it been much of a party if you still don't have access to basic sanitation and power? Every time I see a positive, negatives appear.
The issue of legacy is dominating the media at the moment. This morning, I came across this opinion piece in the Mail & Guardian by Richard Calland regarding the social legacy left by the tournament. Calland makes some salient points, especially when he says, "Apartheid schooled this country in organising things for the benefit and enjoyment of the few, at the expense of the many. The World Cup was no different from that; a First World show superimposed upon a putrid, demeaning Third World squalor". The juxtaposition of football stadium and informal settlement reminds us that very little has fundamentally changed. The search for a social cohesion in the World Cup is very a much a middle class agenda, a feel-good device that allows these people behind their "higher (electrified) walls" to wave their flags and 'be' proudly South African. Are people in the townships really as desperate to find this paper-thin unity or are there more pressing concerns? Do they feel as if they are the same as those middle class suburbanites? If anything, my experiences in the World Cup suggest class and economic divides have been reinforced.
Countering my cynical side and agreeing with Calland, I've seen people walking the streets of Jo'burg that I never thought I would see. The middle class are re-engaging with Johannesburg in a way that would have been virtually unheard of only a few months ago; taking Metrorail trains, minibus taxis and buses to the stadiums. But as my brief optimism ebbs away, I realise that we are living in a World Cup bubble that will soon be cruelly popped. I hope I'm proved wrong.