Sunday, February 08, 2009

Economy: FIFA World Cup - what happened to German assistance to South Africa?

By: Julio Godoy

Republished permission Inter Press Service (IPS ) copyright Inter Press Service (IPS) and

- As the building of new soccer stadiums and transport infrastructure in South Africa steams ahead, little seems to have come of the agreed assistance by the host of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Germany, to the 2010 FIFA World Cup host, South Africa.

When last October German head of government Angela Merkel visited South Africa, she and then South African head of state Thabo Mbeki signed an agreement according to which Germany would ‘‘share its knowledge and experience’’ to support South Africa’s organisation of the next FIFA Football World Cup in 2010.

This agreement was based on the impression that Germany, organiser of the 2006 cup, could provide assistance to the South African organising committee and sport authorities to ensure that the event of 2010 be as successful as the previous one.

FIFA World Cup 2006 in Germany was indeed a success. Not only were the audiences massive, the event passed practically without any unpleasant incident. And the cup established new standards in environmental protection and organisation.

Therefore, the German cooperation with South Africa could be seen as a guarantee of sorts that the event of 2010 would meet these new standards. However, when asked about what concrete forms this cooperation is taking, the responsible German authorities are either vague or downright mute.

German support for South Africa in this matter has even a name: Horst R. Schmidt, current treasurer at the National Football Federation (DFB, after its German name). According to the DFB, Schmidt has been official counsellor of the South African organising committee since Oct 2006.

That is, his counselling has nothing to do with the cooperation agreement Merkel and Mbeki signed in Oct 2008.

‘‘For the past two years, Mr. Schmidt has spent at least one week per month in South Africa, participating in sessions and supervising activities of the local organising committee,’’ Thomas Hackbarth, a DFB spokesperson, told IPS.

Hackbarth underlined that Schmidt is ‘‘a long-time and successful organiser of international sport events’’. Schmidt was a member of the German organising committee of the Olympic Games in 1972 and served as the DFB’s managing director between 1992 and 2007. He was also deputy executive director of the German organising committee of the 2006 cup.

According to Hackbarth, ‘‘the focus of (Schmidt's) counselling function in South Africa is the organisation of the ticketing, the construction of stadiums and supporting the organisational structure of the local organising committee.’’

But, when asked what concrete forms the German cooperation with South Africa takes, Hackbarth became vague, and referred IPS to the German government for concrete information. The ministry of the interior and the ministry for foreign affairs would be involved in the official cooperation with South Africa, he said.

However, at the German ministry of the interior, which is responsible for sport, a spokesperson told IPS, ‘‘we have no formal cooperation relation with the South African football association or with the world cup organising committee.

‘‘For that matter, you should ask at the chancellery (Merkel’s office) or at the DFB,’’ Gabrielle Hermani told IPS. ‘‘You can also try the ministry for international cooperation.’’

The ministry for foreign affairs reacted in similar fashion. ‘‘There is no formal cooperation between the ministry and the sport authorities in South Africa,’’ a ministry spokesperson said. The chancellery did not answer IPS questions on the issue.

Hackbarth said that the German environmental programme for the 2006 cup, known as Green Goal, has been an issue closely followed by South African sport authorities.

‘‘We gave the South African organising committee all our Green Goal documentation,’’ he said. ‘‘The 2006 cup Green Goal commissioners took part in counselling sessions in Dec 2008 during a visit of the South African organising committee delegation to Germany.’’

The German Green Goal programme was indeed a success. Some 74 percent of the audience did use public transport, especially trains, to travel to the stadiums. All greenhouse gases emissions produced by the event were compensated for with environmental programmes in South Africa and India.

Furthermore, all electricity consumed by the event was generated by renewable sources. In addition, the 2006 cup saved up to 20 percent of the water and electricity budgeted for the event.

But it is debatable whether South Africa could benefit from this experience. In an interview, Schmidt admitted that the railroad system in South Africa could not fulfil the role it played in Germany for the transport of the audiences.

‘‘In 2010, railroad transportation won't play the dominant part it has played in former occasions,’’ Schmidt said. ‘‘And the taxi and the bus systems in South Africa must still be upgraded substantially.’’

Similarly, it is doubtful that South Africa can develop by 2010 energy and water saving schemes comparable to those used in Germany.

But Schmidt was optimistic that the South African stadiums will satisfy international standards. ‘‘I visited South Africa again this January (2009),’’ he said. ‘‘I know for sure that between 1,500 and 2,000 workers are working at each stadium. The stadiums will be for the world cup next year.’’

He also dismissed fears that crime will be a danger at the event. ‘‘South Africa has a lot of experience in organising international sport competitions, such as the African Cup of Nations, and the rugby and cricket world cups,’’ he said. ‘‘All these events happened without unforeseen violent incidents,’’ he insisted.

What Schmidt did not say is that South Africa hosted these events without any support from Europe in general or Germany in particular.
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
Putting principles before profits