Back to Africa (Part Three)
There were plenty of skeptics who seriously questioned Africa’s ability to successfully host the FIFA World Cup finals, just as there were many who doubted that Nelson Mandela would ever be released from prison, or that Apartheid would come to an end without a prolonged and bloody civil war in South Africa.
Perhaps the moral is that for a whole range of very different historical reasons, we should be prepared to be surprised by Africa, just as we have learned to be surprised by China.
When I started writing this post, it was 12 hours before the final match of the 2010 World Cup finals, which was broadcast live to some 200 countries around the globe. The remarkable thing is not that the 64 World Cup finals matches of 2010 generated a record-shattering US$3.2 billion in revenues; or that 100% of the matches were started on time; or that they reached the highest TV audiences in the history not only of sport but of television.
Those too are very noteworthy achievements, but the real knock-your-socks off fact is that the final match between Spain and the Netherlands was watched by more people around the globe than any event in human history, bar none. That is simply staggering.
To put it into perspective, the latest Super Bowl — far and away the king of audience size in the U.S. — attracted TV audience figures in the U.S. of about 106 million people. A recent 2010 World Cup match — smaller by far than the final — had an audience of 715 million worldwide.
While in Cape Town, I had the great pleasure of attending my first professional football (in the U.S. we still call it soccer) match, between Spain and Portugal, held in Cape Town’s beautiful new stadium. It was spectacular in every sense of the word. My only regret was that I had not brought ear plugs to protect against the incredible chorus of vuvuzelas which the colorfully costumed and beflagged fans from every corner of the globe were continuously honking on.
盛装打扮的葡萄牙球迷 / Portuguese fans fully decked out
In a wonderful twist of global irony, I am told that the vuvuzelas, a horn of proud South African tradition, are now mostly made in Southern China. Further proof of the ever-shrinking globe.
Apart from the match and the festivities in the stadium, I was impressed by the generally polite, peaceful and efficient movement of the capacity crowd of 66,000 people in and out of the facility and around the adjacent neighborhoods.
My only quibble, as I attempted a half-time dash to the men’s room, was with a fellow American who was dancing (as opposed to walking ) very slowly down the steep stadium stairs in front of me, with both arms aloft, his right paw clutching two large plastic cups filled with beer, and his left paw texting on his Blackberry.
There is nothing wrong with dancing, texting, or carrying two beers, although many of the leading experts recommend against doing all three of these activities at the same time, especially when descending the steps of a very crowded stadium at half time, when people walking behind you may have urgent matters on their mind.
It is fortunate that I did not have a vuvuzela in hand at that very moment. If I had it would have been very tempting to use it in the manner of a strategically placed car horn, in which case my American friend might have been engaged in an additional activity: leaping.
The super success of the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals in South Africa was truly a historic coming out party of global proportions not only for South Africa but the whole African continent.