Connect to share and comment

South Africa looks to build on success of World Cup

Increased tourism and improved services may be legacy of soccer tournament.

South Africa World Cup closing ceremony
South Africa is challenged to build on the success of the World Cup. Here is the closing ceremony of the 2010 World Cup at Soccer City stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa. (Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — So now what? What happens after the World Cup?

South Africa successfully hosted the world's largest sports tournament, a huge organizational undertaking that many feared would be too much of a challenge for the developing nation. As the country says farewell to thousands of visitors, camera crews and soccer stars, it is also pondering what will be the tournament’s legacy.

Over the past month, South Africa has put its best face forward, showcasing spectacular stadiums and modern transportation systems to a worldwide audience. The World Cup's success has instilled immense pride among South Africans, but it has also raised expectations. Now that the last ball has been kicked many here expect bigger and better things for their country.

“I think it’s going to take the country forward,” said Bernard Klaassens, a 32-year-old Johannesburg resident who attended the World Cup final at Soccer City. “I really, really do.”

But exactly what awaits in South Africa’s future remains an open-ended question. While South Africa can reasonably count on a greater influx of tourists in years to come, it is from within that change is most expected.

“This is a spirit we should not lose now that the tournament has ended,” wrote the Times, a South African newspaper, in an editorial. “Let us build on what we achieved in the past month to make our country better.”

Read more GlobalPost World Cup Coverage

In just two decades, the country has managed to transform itself from world pariah into world host, but the pace of change has been frustratingly slow for many South Africans whose living conditions haven’t improved much from the years of the apartheid regime.

By building infrastructure on time, setting up speedy World Cup courts and organizing an efficient police force, the South African government has shown a focus and urgency that has not always been on display when it came time to address the concerns of its citizens.

Political analyst Steven Friedman said the World Cup has served to demonstrate to skeptics that the government can be competent if need be.

“I think the World Cup showed that the government knows what to do,” Friedman said. “The problem is that it hasn’t had enough pressure.”