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Four years on, no golden legacy for South Africa

sports Updated: Jun 04, 2014 01:20 IST

Four years after the World Cup, Soccer City stadium stands out against the drab skyline of south Johannesburg, a multi-coloured mosaic of steel and glass set against the yellow-dust mine dumps of a century-old city built, literally, on gold.

On many weekends, the 94,000-seater venue that hosted key games during the 2010 tournament is pumping, either with the roars of soccer fans or chant of concert-goers, an example of enduring, direct returns accrued by host nation South Africa.

The stadium, which underwent a 1.5 billion rand (Rs 889 crore) facelift for the event, comfortably pays its own way, according to its website, with fixtures ranging from Soweto soccer derbies to concerts by the likes of Lady Gaga and U2.

However, Soccer City stands out in another, crucial way.

Of the nine other venues built or renovated for the World Cup to the tune of 10 billion rand - a quarter of the overall budget - all are in the red, unable to attract regular top sporting clashes or international rock stars.

The bill for their up-keep falls on cash-strapped municipalities, a salutary lesson for Brazil, where hundreds of thousands have protested, sometimes violently.

Empty seats
The Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in the decaying industrial city of Port Elizabeth supports the case.

The current tenants of the state-of-the-art 47,000-seat, 2.1 billion rand (Rs 1494 crore) venue are the Southern Kings, a second-tier rugby side excluded last year from the lucrative Super XV competition that includes teams from Australia and New Zealand.

Its owners decline to reveal annual up-keep costs, but they concede that it runs at a loss of 13 million rand a year - a bill that the municipality has to pick up.

With so many other social demands in one of South Africa's poorest regions, turning it round is a low priority.

'Fire of failure'
In their final report on the 2010 tournament, FIFA and the South African Football Association (SAFA) urged people to focus on "non-tangible" benefits such as an improved national team and the rebranding of a country plagued by violent crime.

Whereas tourism numbers have boomed since the tournament, a reflection of both South Africa's burnished international image and - in the last 18 months - its weak currency, the sporting benefits are debatable.

The national soccer team, Bafana Bafana, failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup and are currently languishing at 65 in the world rankings, having slid from a short-lived post-World Cup high of 38th in 2011.