Thursday, 9 July 2009
Why the World Cup could be bad for South Africa
From the school of the "NO DUH" comes something I thought of yesterday evening. I often have these supposed epiphanies and then discover I am centuries behind the world's greatest thinkers, and the plumber down the road.
As we all know, South Africa will be hosting the World Cup next year, and as we all know, some form of crime is going to happen to someone in that time.
It does not matter what type of crime. It probably does not even matter if the total crime rate in that time is lower than that of previous World Cups. Something will happen for sure. Crime will happen in every World Cup anywhere.
We all know that on the whole newspapers are vultures. And from what I have observed in the UK, newspapers here hold nothing back when it comes to slating anything they have decided it is fashionable and profitable to slate. They publish articles based almost entirely on conjecture and speculation, and it seems sometimes, blatant distortion.
I have no doubts that newspapers across the world display similar tactics. South African newspapers are pretty bad, but crime stories are not big sellers in South Africa any more.
What I fear, is that every tiny bit of crime that happens during the World Cup will be zoomed in on and picked apart and displayed to the world as a reason never to step foot in South Africa.
At the moment it is fashionable for journalists in the UK to publish articles about why you should not go to the World Cup in South Africa. It is fashionable to be against the whole thing. So you can bet that come the World Cup, they will be circling around any crime, and offering it up to readers whose minds have already been set before the games began.
Crimes have happened to foreigners before in South Africa, but this is different. There is an agenda. And this is a huge event that is big news anyway.
It is almost as if the newspapers are setting themselves up for their big sell: tell the people about the nasty crime, and then when the World Cup happens, they can sell their big crime stories and say, "look we told you so". Readers love a good bout of expectation and fulfilment, in the style of the Hollywood blockbuster.
What I am saying is no matter how good the Cup actually is, South Africa is going to be dragged through the mud by the international media. And this could persuade many impressionable people to never set foot there.
If damage is done though, I hope it will be short-lived. Travellers tend to depend upon the experiences of other travellers above all when deciding where to go, and if thousands of tourists have a great time in South Africa, the good news will spread quickly.
And travellers have remarkably short memories and strange standards. After the massacres in Kenya, tourism dropped for a bit, but people are still honeymooning there in droves from the UK. Both times I have been to Thailand there has been unrest in the form of a coup and attempted assassination. But, we had booked our tickets. It seemed safe. So we went. It was safe. It is a case of, if other people are going... why can't we?
In the end, I am hopeful that the good publicity will outweigh the bad in the long term.
What do people think about a potential media frenzy no matter what happens in the World Cup? Do you think it could happen? Will it be damaging?