Hosting a mega-sports event has traditionally been a privilege for developed nations, but since 2008 developing countries have successfully obtained the right to host those international competitions. For example, China hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, India the 2010 Commonwealth Games, South Africa the 2010 World Cup, Russia the 2014 Winter Olympics and Brazil the 2014 World Cup. In addition, Russia is selected to host the 2018 World Cup and Brazil the 2016 Summer Olympics (Peeters, Matheson, & Szymanski, 2014). Although, this seems to be a positive step for the developing nations, there are speculations concerning the benefits and expenses those games generate.

Events such as the World Cup give incentive to create infrastructure, promote international exposure and increase tourism and business alliances. It is also a way to speed up the process of investments in certain areas and infrastructure that otherwise would be forgotten or would not be passed through the political process (Barclay, 2009). On the other hand, the opportunity cost is high. Investing in infrastructure for a mega sporting events means a reduction in other public services, greater government borrowing or higher levels of taxation (Barclay, 2009). However, developing nations tend to have an inefficient and corrupted government systems, an extra challenge when it comes to investments for infrastructure development.

Background on FIFA

The term “football” also known as soccer in North America and has been one of, if not the world’s most popular sports. Soccer the ‘global game’ spans culturally diverse societies in all continents; with an estimated 250 million people as direct participants, around 1.4 billion have an interest, and football’s flagship tournament, the World Cup finals, attracts a cumulative global television audience of 33.4 million (Three Monkeys Online Magazine, 2016). The world cup consists of thirty-two teams, sixty-four games, eight groups of four, years of qualifying and one world champion, 352 players, 150 staff and millions of fans. Thirty-two nations will come together as one to support their country, tears will be shed, hearts will be broken, and spirits will be lifted as the nations battle it out for the trophy. The World Cup is truly the biggest sporting event in the world, not only by the fact that it has the most viewers, but also by the amount of money put towards hosting the match stadiums, ticket purchases, and merchandise purchase (Giulianotti & Robertson 2007). Spain won in 2010 and Germany was able to beat out host country Brazil in 2014 both nations are highly prominent in the world of soccer. Although, seemingly positive for the host country, what are the true economic disparities? With modern day technology “a process through which space and time are compressed by technology, information flows, and trade and power relations, allowing distant actions to have increased significance at the local level” (Miller, Lawrence, McKay and Rowe, 2001). What this means for football is that previously untouched markets and players are now able to be marketed to a large group of people over a multitude of platforms.

As shown in the video above FIFA preaches, development, growing the sport globally and to build a better future to use football to tackle social issues world wide.

The Question

Football may have the  ability to transcend culture and geographical boundaries, breaking social barriers and create an identity but also overshadow societal issues like poverty, inequality, and racism. In this blog I am going to look at the 2010 Fédération Internationale de Football Association A.K.A FIFA world cup in South Africa to shed light on the socio-economic impacts an event like FIFA can have on the host nation. I did want to compare it to Brazil in 2014 but there was not enough academic information on it in order to build an argument and comparison to South Africa.

Above is a promotional video played during the 2010 FIFA world cup in South Africa.

2010 FIFA World Cup-South Africa

Nelson Mandela made a claim that “the World Cup [would] help unify people and if there is one thing on this planet that has the power to bind people, its soccer.” (Gatsheni, 2011).   South Africa became the first African country to host the World Cup. According to the Deputy Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Musa Nene, the South African government hoped the World Cup would be a “catalyst for development and investment in infrastructure, targeting the creation of employment and economic growth, rather than funding just a one-off event”. Besides that, the event could possibly enhance the country’s international image and the sense of national pride among the South Africans (OECD Observer & Nene, 2013).


High Hopes 

When a nation hosts the FIFA World Cup, it’s granted an unfathomably large level of responsibility. Not only does this include the necessity of ensuring fan and player safety, but it also involves providing everybody with suitable [and affordable] transportation, accommodations, and dining. In 2010, the Wall Street Journal published an article in which they claimed, “The South African government has used the World Cup as a catalyst for development, and to address social ills of crime and race tensions. It has claimed success on all fronts” (Wonacott and Stewart). The tournament embodied the widely held belief that soccer was an opportunity to unite South Africans under a single flag- something that hadn’t truly been achieved since the 1995 Rugby World Cup. One of the major quirks of the tournament was the amount of people walking around in previously considered dangerous parts of cities at night. However, major economic and social concerns still remained beneath much of the public joy.

Problem-Job Creation

The people anticipated antigovernment protests predicated on the fact that the nation spent billions of dollars on new stadiums while many of its citizens living in cities and townships lacked electricity, clean water, and decent housing.   Workers that built the facilities for the 2010 World Cup threatened on multiple occasions to walk off the job to press demands for higher pay in order to match the increased cost of living. With such a notably unequal economic divide, these claims were more than justified.   In fact, poverty was [and still is] a major issue in South Africa. Of a population of nearly 50 million, there are only 5 million taxpayers but 13 million people who receive some sort of social grant. Many argue this is not a sustainable economic model. By creating more construction jobs for the World Cup, the government hoped to increase the capable taxpayer population and finally generate some much-needed revenue. This strategy was actually counterproductive; the construction jobs only provided temporary employment and created a false sense of national economic improvement.

Problem-Standard of Living

At the time of the World Cup, South Africa was ranked 129th in the Human Development Index (HDI) scale, which measures education, life expectancy, and standard of living. It is also the “most unequal country on the planet” (Rodrigues, 2013). In 2006, 34.1% of South Africans lived on less than $2 a day; in 2009, that number jumped to 42.9%. Even more alarming, life expectancy supposedly fell by 13 years in a similar time period. Apparently, this fall is attributable t0 the way income, inequality and poverty continue to impact the poor of South Africa (Rodrigues, 2013). Adding fuel to the fire, the fact that the government spent approximately 3 billion USD on the World Cup is also “testament to there being no concern for the national welfare among its decision makers.” This is a major issue when looking at host countries major issues. With so much money seemingly being spent on outside sources, it is hard for the local populations to see the purpose when many are living well below the poverty line.

Problem-Economic Divide

The money spent and tactics used during the South African World Cup are even more appalling, given the country’s brutal history of forced removals, including evicting the urban poor and rounding up the homeless- dumping them into “temporary relocation areas” and “transit camps” in order to create the right brand attributes. This is a common theme in cities that host mega-events like FIFA there attempt to show people only what they want the people to see and if that means removing people from their shambles of homes then they will do that. This spectacle happens all too often and overshadows much of the looming issues in the country (Deboard, 1994). Also, the transit system was finished but due to the price of using the new rail system many of the nation’s impoverished people are unable to use it. Although a significant amount of infrastructure was improved or put in place it is still not accessible and usable by all in the country. Above shows a few but not all of the socio-economic problems overlooked and pushed aside during FIFA 2010 South Africa.


Even though, FIFA in South Africa did have its issues, for example hosting any mega sporting event pros and cons can arise. One of the positives that increased in the wake of FIFA 2010 is tourism in South Africa. The sector accounted for 8.7% of the GDP in 2009 and accounted for 575 000 direct and 825 000 indirect jobs (Department of Tourism, 2013). While South African Tourism Strategic Research Unit reported that the tourism arrival to South Africa grew by 3.3% in 2011 (South African Tourism Strategic Research Unit, 2012). A positive view, however, is the fact that there was an increase in the number of visitors coming from countries that generally have ties to South Africa, which means the country was able to improve their international image (Peeters, Matheson, & Szymanski, 2014). Also one can say that the South African population might have been benefited in terms of work skills. For those who participated in facilities construction, they acquired skills that can be used for future construction projects. South Africa was also aided from FIFA World Cup Legacy Trust (Peeters, Matheson, & Szymanski, 2014). FIFA has contributed USD 100 million to the trust, of which USD 80 million are designated to social projects linked to football, education and development and humanitarian work. With that money being spent properly and for the right cause South Africa should see some positives.


One of the bright spots of the tournament was the positive impact that the sport left on South African youth. Prior to the tournament, high levels of vandalism, bullying and exclusion were prevalent Johannesburg’s. After the Dutch team sponsored the renovation of a football field in the heart of the neighbourhood, interactions among the children seemed to change. On the wall, there are rules written that the children are obligated to follow; they include respect, fair play and social involvement (Alegi et el, 2013). Hopefully, in upcoming World Cups, the host country’s economic and social issues are granted more attention than they were in South Africa. The argument, that such a large economic, cultural, political and social event such as the World Cup will only temporarily or artificially resolve many internal problems that a host-country may face, will continue to exist as a reality until nations find a way to implement more sustainable changes in preparation for the tournament.


The organization of a World Cup is very challenging for the host country. The event is highly costly and repercussions on the local populations and environment are seemingly unfavorable, especially during times of economic crisis, which is clear from the social unrest usually surrounding these mega events. As many feel that the money being spent on the event could be spent in order to improve education, healthcare, housing and etc. However, to rate events like FIFA in terms of economic and societal gain or loss ultimately comes down to the various stakeholders and their social class and economic status. Overall from the research proposed above I believe that mega events like FIFA at the end of the day are detrimental to socio-economic tensions in the host countries. If FIFA was able to contribute more permanent lasting and economic long term and societal benefits to their developing host nations then maybe it would be worth it to host the event but as it stands the cost and how it is spent out ways the positives rather significantly.

Works Cited


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Giulianotti, R. and Robertson, R . (2007). Sport and globalization: transnational dimensions. Global Networks, 7(2), pp.107-112.

Ndlovu Gatsheni, S. J. (2011). The World Cup, Vuvuzelas, Flag-Waving Patriots and the Burden of Building South Africa. Third World Quarterly, 32(2), 279-293

Peeters, T., Matheson, V., & Szymanski, S. (2014). Tourism and the 2010 World Cup: Lessons for Developing Countries. Journal of African Economies, 23(2), 290-320.

Rodrigues, Chris. “South Africa’s World Cup is a disgrace.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited, 6 May 2010. Web. 3 Dec 2013. <;.

Rowe, D. and Hutchins, B. (n.d.). Globalization and Online Audiences. Routledge Handbook of Sport and New Media.

South African Tourism Strategic Research Unit. (2012). Highlights of tourism’s performance in 2011.Retrieved from

“The ‘Three Pillars’ of FIFA’s Mission.” N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Nov. 2016.

Three Monkeys Online Magazine. (2016). The Globalisation of Football. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Oct. 2016].

Wonacott, Peter , and Robb M. Stewart. “Cup’s Glow Can’t Hide South Africa’s Issues.” Wall Street Journal. (June 23, 2010): n. page. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.