Africa Today seminar: The impact of the 2010 World Cup on social cohesion, nation building and reconciliation in South Africa

Seminar date: 
07 October 2010
Speaker(s): Dr Udesh Pillay, Executive Director Centre for Service Delivery (CSD), Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) Pretoria, South Africa and Stefan Verwer, Lokaalmondiaal

Abstract dr. Udesh Pillay 
The hosting of the 2010 World Cup was eagerly anticipated locally and internationally. While commentators were (mostly) pronouncing on the potential economic benefits and spin-offs, there was an emerging consensus that the event had enormous potential for social cohesion and nation-building. Given South Africa's polarized past, the opportunity for the World Cup to unify the nation was not lost on policy makers, scholars and the general public. The event was subsequently presented as one in which a racially fragmented and highly unequal society could begin to address its fractured past by building a legacy of social cohesion. The latter, it was argued, would be important if the country was to address its many development challenges in a more united and focused manner. While these objectives were noble, there is a large body of theory (borne out by practical experience) that suggests that the prospects of sport as a social unifier and as a catalyst of nation building are (over) inflated. This presentation interrogates this assumption against the backdrop of the 2010 World Cup. It also reflects on how the goals of social integration can be further entrenched in mega-sporting event planning that would allow for more lasting social legacies. 
Key words: social cohesion; nation building; social integration

Read the Presentation (ppt 1639 KB)

Abstract Stefan Verwer 
Sport in general and football in particular have the power to unite people across the world, if only for a short time. The 2010 World Cup, hosted by South Africa, clearly demonstrated this. However, football does not provide a panacea for every problem; it can only provide an incentive for people to solve problems in a resourceful manner. And this is exactly what the World Cup has done in South Africa. 

First and foremost, it showed the world a different Africa. People often see the continent in an unfavourable light, as a place where hunger prevails, violence is part of daily life and disease is rampant. Africa is considered to be behind the rest of the world financially and in sporting terms but hosting the 2010 World Cup provided it with an excellent opportunity to show people what Africa can do. 

The predicted horror scenarios did not happen, crime rates were lower than expected and, above all, the organization of the tournament went smoothly. And that might be the biggest impact that the World Cup could have had because by successfully organizing a world-class event, South Africa has shown its capabilities. There will be no excuse in the future for not tackling the enormous challenges still facing the country.

Key words: development; nation building; sport; development

Stefan Verwer is the director of lokaalmondiaal, the co-editor of Africa United and the imitator and publisher of