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South Africa's 10 new stadiums face uncertain future.
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — South Africa dazzled the world with its new 2010 World Cup stadiums.
The sports bowls built around the country have been almost universally praised for their modernity, their beauty, and their ambitious scale. In all, the country built or renovated 10 new stadiums in preparation for the games at a cost of more than $2 billion.
But some are asking whether that money was spent wisely in a country where so many live without basic services such as flush toilets and trash removal.
Furthermore, they want to know where the money will come from to sustain the enormous structures once the soccer stars, fans, and perhaps most significantly, FIFA, leave South Africa after the final match on July 11.
“I don’t know how they’re going to be maintained,” said Horatio Motjuwadi, editor of The Sowetan, who called the stadiums white elephants that South Africans are now stuck with for a long time to come. “You need a mathematician to figure out how they are going to move forward and pay for them after the World Cup.”
Nowhere is this as true as in Polokwane, a rural city of just over 500,000, three hours to the north of Johannesburg. A satellite towns with a racially polarized and economically disparate population, Polokwane is perhaps most famous for being the place where former President Thabo Mbeki was ousted as leader of the African National Congress party in 2008, which led to him stepping down as president.
For the first time in its history, Polokwane now has an iconic landmark, the state-of-the-art Peter Mokaba Stadium, which holds over 40,000 people. The design of the enormous concrete structure resembles South Africa's baobab tree, with circular ambulatory ramps simulating tree trunks and overhead steel “canopies.”
It was named after a deceased politician from the National Conress Party who fought against apartheid but was also well known for using the slogan "Kill the boer, kill the farmer." For a stadium in a majority white city, it's an odd legacy to honor.
In spite of its grand scale and inspired architecture, Mokaba Stadium hosted just four games during the entire World Cup, all during the first round. Now it’s unknown how it will pay for itself. Reports in the South African media estimate that its annual maintenance costs will be around $2 million.
Polokwane has no local football team and even if visiting teams come to play, it is unlike to draw enough fans to fill the 40,000 brand new seats. Of the 212 football games played by South Africa’s Premiere Football League in the 2009-2010 season, only four drew more than 40,000 fans, according to Sports Industry Magazine.