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Business

Proximity to World Cup stadiums can be painful

Not everyone in South Africa is happy about the soccer World Cup. Many merchants and residents located near renovated stadiums and recently developed fan parks say proximity to the tournament has a downside.

Aerial view of Greenpoint Stadium in Cape Town

Green Point Stadium will host World Cup matches in Cape Town

The entire area around the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town is quiet, clean and orderly. No garbage is lying around, nor are any street vendors peddling candy or telephone cards. It's a place where World Cup visitors can relax in numerous cafes and restaurants.

Greg Withers isn't a visitor but a local merchant. He says the stadium development has brought him no joy. The photographer operates a studio near the stadium and right next to the fan park. The area has been one huge construction site for the past couple of years. Parking space for Withers' customers has literally disappeared.

Disruptive development

Ever since World Cup organizer FIFA approved Green Point Stadium as a match site, construction in and around the venue has been intensive - although many locals prefer to use the word "disruptive."

Withers claims his sales are down 50 percent as a result of all the digging and loss of parking space. "This whole 2010 thing and this whole FIFA thing has caused me a great financial loss," he says.

Children stand in an impoverished shanty town area of Cape Town

Critics say Cape Town hopes to hide poverty from tourists

Euquene Kelly, also from Cape Town, is both excited and worried about the World Cup. Kelly runs an Internet cafe 500 meters down the road from Withers' studio toward the stadium. Soccer fans, she says, will surely want to check their email regularly and that will be good for her business. But there's also a real possibility the cafe operator may be forced to give up her apartment near the fan park when the tourists arrive.

Some landlords want to cash in on apartments close to the stadium, according to Kelly. She currently pays 2,500 rands (265 euros) a month for her apartment. But her landlord now wants between 3,000 and 4,000 rands per day during the games. "So I have to move and I know quite a few people who have to move," she says.

Even the less fortunate are feeling the pressure.

Not far from the Internet cafe, a 31-year-old man who calls himself Lucky is loafing through the streets. Normally, he keeps an eye on parked cars to earn money for food. But there's been virtually no business in the area lately because of all the World Cup preparations. So Lucky is begging for change on the streets near Green Point Stadium - but he doesn't know for how long.

"They chase us away," he said. "They say we are going to rob foreign people or something like that."

Deep concern about relocations

A township that has drawn plenty of criticism is Blikkiesdorp, located more than 20 kilometers from Cape Town. Both the homeless and non-governmental organizations are deeply concerned about the large number of people recently relocated there. They claim the city wants to hide poverty from tourists.

Pieter Cronje, a spokesman for the World Cup program in Cape Town, is furious about such accusations. Not one single person, he contends, has been moved to Blikkiesdorp against his or her will. His colleague, Thami Banda, who's in charge of World Cup preparations in Pretoria some 1,400 kilometers away, agrees.

South African fans wearing decorated miner's hat 'makarapas'

Many South Africans, despite some criticism, are excited about the games

Pretoria didn't have to relocate people because the city already had a stadium and training facilities, which only needed to be modernized to FIFA standards, according to Banda. "Our communities are much more excited because we bring the game to them," he said.

Forced relocations, vanishing parking space and soaring rents are not the only contentious issues. Many South Africans are disappointed that only large sponsors have been admitted to the fan parks. Small street merchants selling corn on the cob, sweets or small souvenirs are not allowed within 800 meters of the stadiums and other official venues. That means the very people who are normally so prominent in South Africa's busy streetscapes have little chance of benefitting greatly from the World Cup.

Fan park for everyone

There are exceptions, however. The Tshwane Leadership Foundation and several churches, for instance, have collaborated in a special project in Pretoria. In the middle of the city's oldest park, Burgers Park, the group will stage a fan park complete with live broadcasts, booths, a soup kitchen, children's activities and discussion forums. Soccer fans are welcome because, as co-organizer Kathrin Terblanche says, they, too, benefit little from FIFA's strict World Cup regulations.

"Our aim is to bring together people, particularly visitors who will never or hardly experience the real South Africa because they will drive to the stadium in air-conditioned buses and back to their hotels, and that will be it," she said.

A study conducted by Grant Thornton researchers in April showed that some 373,000 foreigners are expected to visit South Africa for the tournament. That's much lower than earlier predictions of 450,000 - leaving some economists skeptical about how much of a boost the World Cup will really provide South Africa.

Author: Katrin Gaensler/jrb
Editor: Sam Edmonds

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