Can developing nations profitably host World Cup?

How much can sport contribute to the development of a country? 'A lot' is what all South Africans are hoping with 2010 FIFA World Cup preparations in full swing. According to Heinrich Bohlmann, a lecturer and researcher in the Department of Economics at the University of Pretoria, South Africa’s winning bid to host the World Cup has given Africa its first shot at hosting a truly global mega-event.

"Hosting an event of this nature has become an expensive exercise, especially for a developing country such as South Africa. Questions have rightly been raised about the viability of hosting the event, and whether it will be money well spent. Research, including my own, has shown that the short to medium term economic impact of a mega-event is not all it’s hyped up to be. However, scrutinizing these findings often leaves you with more questions than answers, and then of course, reality has to be considered, he wrote at the Sport and Development website. "Should the tournament be a success with a significant contribution made to the further development of the country, we can expect more of these events to be held in the developing world in the future."

With three more years to go, South Africa has earmarked investment to remove problems in public transport, supporting infrastructure and delivery. Legacy and sustainable investment planning is blurring the lines between investment for 2010 and general infrastructure investment so that, stadia apart, " a large majority of the developments surrounding 2010 will actually benefit the country in the long run. It is very likely that a number of these developments would have occurred at some stage in future, but the prospect of FIFA 2010 has definitely kickstarted many of these projects. The private sector has also started to invest significantly (including some foreign investment) while keeping an eye on 2010."

As the overall success of hosting FIFA 2010 lies in the success of the actual event itself, the hosting is both a "risky marketing exercise for a country" and also the "the biggest in terms of exposure" but as . South Africa is a 'developing country', Bohlmann believes "it is very unlikely that even the most successful World Cup in 2010 would bring huge profits." This is "simply due to the large amounts of resources that must be spent in preparation for the event, or otherwise put, developing the advertising campaign. Breaking even could, in a sense, be regarded as a success. However, if the event is indeed successful, it could act as the catalyst for attracting future mega-events, foreign direct investment and tourism. Growth and development will be sure to follow."