Chris Hatherall - South Africa 2010 has been a triumph
Published: 06 Jul 2010 - 08:00:59
FIFA get their fair amount of stick for the way they organise World Cups, whether it's for financial greed, refereeing disasters or cock-ups over ticketing.
But you have to give them praise for the way they have transformed the tournament from what seemed like a closed shop for hooligans to a party the whole world can enjoy.
Whoever thought up the idea of city centre Fan Fests is a genius because they are now an intrinsic part of the World Cup vibe and have completely transformed the way the finals are enjoyed.
When first introduced cynics claimed they were a recipe for disaster - and that encouraging fans without tickets to visit a city was simply asking for trouble. But the opposite has happened.
Take the situation here in Cape Town where the World Cup party is still going with just one more game to go at the Green Point Stadium - a semi-final between Holland and Uruguay.
In the old days tourists and holidaymakers were put off going to a World Cup city during the tournament, partly for fear of hooliganism and partly because they just didn't feel invited.
But last weekend in Cape Town, when Germany took on Argentina in the quarter-finals, an incredible 300,000 football tourists visited the Mother City - which Cape Town spokeswoman Kylie Hatton says is a record.
When you consider the stadium only holds 64,100 it is obvious a vast majority of those fans didn't have a ticket, they simply came to enjoy the atmosphere and share the experience with those who did.
Around 42,000 of them packed into the official Fan Fest but that leaves 200,000 visitors watching in bars and restaurants and pumping their hard-earned money into Cape Town's local economy. No wonder it was so hard to get a table after the game!
Suddenly, you see, football is not just for the hard core, it's for everyone - from the occasional tourist to the just-passing-by to the Holland nut dressed from head to toe in orange.
And of course the glitterati have taken note, too. Leonardi Di Caprio, Mick Jagger and Orlando Bloom were all said to be in town for Germany's big win - although sadly Paris Hilton couldn't make it (something to do with digga dagga the local paper said).
"We were amazed that 300,000 turned up," admitted Hatton. "But the great thing is that there was absolutely no trouble and because it was an afternoon game there were a lot of families there too. It's just fantastic. Overall we've now had 1.4m people visiting Cape Town for the World Cup."
Credit where credit's due, then. Whatever else they may mess up, FIFA have definitely got this bit right. ends
- FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:Chris Hatherall
- CHRIS HATHERALL has been covering football at the highest level - and Brentford - for 20 years. He has written for most UK newspapers and many overseas through the Hayters agency, and covers Premiership and Champions League football for publications in Japan, the Middle East and Ireland. He covers England at home and overseas, and this is his fourth World Cup where he hopes, once again, to see the trophy come back home.
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