The Olympics and FIFA World Cup are often hailed as huge boons for their host countries or cities. At least that is how they are described prior to the event. Local organizing committees, civic and business leaders, and celebrities alike sell the economic, social, and cultural benefits of hosting international games.
But history has shown that the bold projections and promises are not generally met. A few noted successes have been the Barcelona Summer Olympics in 1992 and the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics. Barcelona is hailed as a good example of using the Olympics as an opportunity for making long-term investments in the city’s infrastructure. Sydney’s event is noted as contributing to the successful branding of the city and country resulting in increased tourism.
But there have been many that have not lived up to their promise such as the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Vast structures were built only to never be used again and leaving the city and taxpayers deep in debt.
What will be South Africa’s legacy? No doubt the event will bring a huge boost to the GDP from tourism and the sale of merchandise. Efforts are being made to increase the footballing infrastructure in support of the next generation of South African footballers. Intra-city transport systems will see vast improvements. And large new stadiums are being built all around the country, which have contributed to the direct employment of many South Africans. But what will happen when the games are gone and preparations are being made for Brazil in 2014? What will happen to these gleaming and impressive new stadiums; the 94,000 person capacity Soccer City in Soweto. How will the local communities benefit in the long-term from these efforts and expenses?
The 2010 World Cup in South Africa, more than any before, come with a huge responsibility to all involved; it needs to be a success. And it needs to be a launching pad. I argue that more than ever before multi-national corporations, long-time sponsors of the events, need to embrace this opportunity and make an even greater contribution to the country, beyond the usual sponsorship efforts. Corporations can help make a lasting impact, for themselves (increased brand awareness and market penetration), and more importantly, for the country and its people.