Hosting a major tournament requires time

But Mr Banda, is this a joke or what? If it is a joke then it is in the worst possible taste. For the past two weeks you have been saying that the sports story is the 2006 Fifa World Cup soccer tournament and that the 2006 Fifa World Cup soccer tournament is the story. Only last week you were even wondering whether you should ask if we are well because you knew chances were we were well because of the ongoing global soccer showcase. So where are you coming from this week?

Easy does it, my friends. It is not an entirely different kettle of fish altogether this week. It is just that latest developments in Germany have left me in such a position as demands that I ask if all is well with you. Or perhaps I should just not ask and proceed to conclude that there is no way you can be well under the circumstances.

My point is: if, going into the tournament, you had high hopes about the performance of Africa’s representatives in Germany or, worse still, had placed your house or some such valuable or valuables on a bet informed by same, nothing can be well with you right now. What? Somebody even placed their wife as a bet? Now, now.

But back in Germany, on the pitch the story has not been good reading for Africa. Unless you are steeped in realism like some of us. In short: do not go into a public toilet and come out complaining that it is dirty, or stinking, or that there is an overflow on the floor and you do not know whether it is water or urine. If it is clean- praise, if it is not- tell the attendant or some such responsible person or do what you can to help, but by no means do not make a public spectacle.

Now that is what I wanted to talk about. Public spectacle. Germany 2006 has been a public spectacle, so far. I dare say it will remain such.

But watching from the comfort of your own home, or other half half or third or bar or sports caf’ or neighbour’s lounge, or wherever it is that you watch the 18th edition of the Fifa World Cup soccer tournament, do not, not even for just a second, believe that all that you are seeing and enjoying is just happening.

Now, now, Mr Banda, what do you mean by that? Surely I will be seeing, and enjoying in the process, because it will be happening?

Well, yes. But what I mean is that what you are seeing, and enjoying in the process, is the product of hours, days, weeks, months, nay years, of preparation. It is not just happening. There was input to make sure that would be the output. There was investment to make sure that would be the return on that investment. It is not just happening. Life is interesting, but not that interesting that things just happen. Unless I am not aware.

A lot of ink has been spent on reporting on the on-field activity, in other words the play. This has been dissected and cut up, cut down and cut open.

It has been analysed, and coaches condemned or commended. I leave it to others to continue with that job elsewhere.

Here I am just looking at the show. And I have said it is not just happening. The planning for what you are seeing and enjoying right now happened way back. The plan therefore is the thing. What is to be done, why, where, when, how, by whom, with whom, with what, for how long, for how much?

With planning comes the budget. And so South Africa has got it right with Finance Minister Trevor Manuel announcing the 2010 World Cup allocation

when he presented his government’s budget for 2006. He said South Africa will spend up to 810 million United States dollars on infrastructure specifically for the tournament. More than half of this amount will be set aside over the next three fiscal years. It is also encouraging to hear that host cities and match venues have not just been selected but also approved by the world soccer-governing body, Fifa. And all this a year in advance of the due date. With events of such magnitude, the importance of lead times cannot be emphasised. The commitment of the host city has been confirmed with their putting signatures on the dotted line of the host-city agreements.

Where? The first ever World Cup soccer finals to be held in Africa will be hosted in nine cities and 10 stadia. What about the venues? Stadium construction is always a challenge for such mega-events, as the Caribbean has found out with cement shortages playing havoc in trying to stick to deadlines given for construction for the International Cricket Council Cricket World Cup that they will host from the 13th of March to the 28th of April next year.

Deadlines. Forget these or fail to keep them and the project is dead. So these have to be kept, dead or alive. What I mean is they have to be kept at any cost.

But, Mr Banda, what can organisers do about those factors they cannot control? The weather, for example?

I am sorry, folks, deadlines are just that whether the weather allows it or not. Organisers have to factor in such vagaries and vicissitudes. Remember, man proposes and nature disposes.

For example in the Caribbean, the period June to November is Atlantic hurricane season and experts have predicted that this year’s will be an active one. If it is then that will certainly impact negatively on construction and redevelopment work currently underway at the 13 venues in nine territories across the Caribbean: Antigua, Barbados, Guyana, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Trinidad.

But the organizers have not curled up and died. Neither have they put up their hands and said the matter is now in the hands of fate. They have kept the planning and preparation where they should remain: in their hands.

Chris Dehring, Chief Executive Officer of the organising committee has said the subject is of a sensitive nature and so he cannot reveal details but in the worst case scenario, the tournament could be accommodated in just six countries.

Listen to the man reacting to the worst case:

“If it does happen and we lose one or two venues, we have a well laid out plan. If we lose three or four venues, we have a well laid out plan. If all venues are hit, we have a master contingency plan.”

Hear, hear!

June 2006
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