‘Its Africa’s turn’: Putting symbolic politics into perspective with South Africa 2010
In what Cornelissen (2005) calls ‘the global tourism system’ we find sporting mega-events as the new players on the field. These have joined the league of strategies for both economic and political development as part of the exigencies of globalization, (Black, 2007). Sporting mega-events not only serve as fountains of well- carved messages to control and shape perceptions about host countries or cities; they also strengthen and establish an image. This is evident in the packaging of these narratives which includes the bidding process where internal, external, domestic and international audiences are lured with potential benefits and opportunities perceived; a charm that usually includes noble bidding claims and continues during the games through the opening and closing ceremonies. South Africa’s bidding for the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup was no different. This paper will look at South Africa’s journey to winning the bid. Furthermore it undertakes a narrative analysis of what will be argued as South African mega-event addiction. It contends that the narratives used in the bidding processes to secure the right to hold these events is symbolic in that the promises and benefits of these mega-events do not necessarily trickle down to the ordinary citizens from whom it is supposed to benefit. The perceived power of sports in globalization, nation building, and reinforcing positive societal values, as argued by Black (2007), is sometimes rhetoric in mega-events as tension exists between overcoming and highlighting differences. The fundamental construction of the narratives is a promise to address and reconstruct old questions of power, identity and inequality for South Africans, as a step towards the direction of a reconstruction of post-colonial Africa and post Apartheid South Africa; a new direction encompassing the rebirth of the whole African continent. However, the paper posits a persuasive argument that without an objective evaluation, the quest shall remain elitist and self serving to all but a few elites and politicians, but under the banner of inclusion and development for all. It shall be concluded that if South Africa is to gain the political mileage it seeks, and a moral identity, its positioning must remain in formulating a strategy that will not only make the world cup successful, but also one that is sustainable.