What now?


Photo from The Guardian, July 11

Apologies for the long delay. While I’d love to say I was being strategic and was purposely waiting a whole month since the last ball was kicked for this post, I’d be lying. I’ve simply been busy. Poor excuse though. However, it is a bit fortuitous that the first real free moment I’ve had to write falls almost exactly a month since that last game. A month, which has provided a decent amount of time to let that surface layer of dust to settle; to let those who were fortunate enough to be employed before the games remember that they should probably get back to work or risk losing that precious job; to let those who were scraping by before the games get back to their business of “making do.” Whatever the circumstance, by now most people in South Africa and around the world have asked themselves, “now what?” It’s a fair question, particularly since South Africans have been preparing, mentally and physically, for this event for the past five years.

Early reports show that the post-World Cup hangover has been tough. The Financial Times, in a July 21 article, described how the amazing sense of friendliness and safety that pervaded the country during the games, was beginning to wear off, with reported solated xenophobic attacks against immigrants. Economic forecasters were already beginning to downgrade the country’s growth projections for the year.

This negativity and the doubts shouldn’t be surprising.  They were there before the games and they’ll continue to persist long after, regardless of the amazing spectacle South Africa put on for the world.

So the real question isn’t “now what?” i.e. ho-hum, what are we to do?  But the question is “now what?” meaning how will South Africa and South Africans react to a post-World Cup reality?  This will be real test of their mettle. Was all of the Shosha-loza national unity caused only by the pixie dust of the World Cup or will this event really be seen as a starting point towards a truly post-racial South Africa?  Will white South Africans begin attending the Kaizer Chiefs v. Orland Pirates derbies (if they can get tix); will black South Africans begin filling the stands for Springboks matches?  We’ll see.

This will also be a test of the commitment of the business community.  It was clear that multinational brands, even the large sponsors, didn’t use the opportunity to invest real resources into the growth of the country.  Their long-term commitment to the country and region will be tested now.  And all of the idyllic private-public partnerships that preceded the games (think Gautrain) will also be on trial to see if they continue as beacons of South Africa’s growth.

A month is still a short period of time to get over fiver years of anticipation.  But I believe the early actions (or lack thereof) will be indicative of how this event will shape the future of the country.

I’m hopeful that the amazing energy I saw during the World Cup will serve as a catalyst for continued greatness.  Time will tell, but I hope we see some signs early.

Would love to hear anyone’s thoughts or comments.

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