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World Cup 2010: South Africa wins as host

Despite skepticism, South Africa succeeds in organizing world's biggest sports tournament.

“It created an opportunity to have the world look at us in a different way, and it has helped dispel misconceptions,” Matola said.

The global economic downturn raised fears that many fans would stay home, but based on travel statistics for June, organizers are now confident the total number of World Cup visitors will reach the 450,000 figure initially anticipated. More important, many of these visitors have vowed to come back, Matola said.

“The goodwill that has been unlocked cannot be measured in monetary terms,” Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said recently.

In the weeks leading up to the World Cup, a strike in the rail sector crippled the country’s exports, a reminder of the power of South Africa’s unions. Unhappy with working conditions, security guards left their posts at several stadiums during the early stages of the tournament, but they were seamlessly replaced by police officers.

A large strike at power utility Eskom, which would have had potentially devastating consequences for the World Cup and beyond, was averted through negotiations, which the ruling African National Congress party said “clearly illustrates that all the parties involved are unquestionably patriotic and supportive to South Africa’s current hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.”

While strikes did not disrupt the World Cup, they highlighted the precariousness of South Africa’s job landscape. Despite the upcoming soccer tournament, the country lost 79,000 jobs in the first quarter. Jaco Kleynhans, spokesman for trade union Solidarity, said that he expects a few jobs to be created in the tourism sector but that the World Cup won’t solve South Africa’s job crisis.

“It’s a great launching pad, the World Cup,” Kleynhans said. “But nothing more.”

Perhaps the best indicator that the tournament has gone smoothly is that most of the off-field action has been dominated by the antics of the French team and that now-infamous plastic horn, the vuvuzela.

Hutchcraft said he liked the vuvuzela from the start, but that it took a little longer for his friend Denise Suhr to get used to the trumpet’s monotone sound.

“I wore earplugs the first two matches,” Suhr said. “I feel better [about them] now.”