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World Cup 2010: South Africa Says "Ayoba" To The World

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World Cup 2010: South Africa Says
Michael Steele/Getty Images

The word 'Ayoba' has murky origins but what is known is that it originated in South African townships, originally used to express appreciation of good dancing, something that runs deep in the veins of South Africans.  The best description I have seen uses the word 'awesomeness', even though that word cannot be found in any dictionary.

South Africa's hosting of the world's premier sporting event is about to come to an end and 'Ayoba' fits perfectly.  That was the last thing the world expected four years ago after Germany in 2006.  

South Africa's high crime rate was the main issue but other questions remained. Would the stadiums be ready? Would there be enough accommodation? Would the transport system be a disaster and the attendance numbers pitiful?

The barrage of negative publicity was relentless, especially in Europe and the U.S. It reached levels of absurdity. The German team were considering bulletproof vests for their players, and an English tabloid hysterically cataloged the list of some of the world's most dangerous snakes that were lurking around the English team's rural base, just waiting to short circuit their World Cup hopes. 

The snakes didn't have to bother—not that there was any real danger to begin with—as England managed to self destruct without any outside assistance. 

It reached a point where even optimistic South Africans began to doubt themselves. 

Estimates of foreign visitors were cut down from a high of about 450,000 down to 300,000, which would have been a disaster.  

All these fears have turned out to be totally misplaced.  Crime has been minimal, most of which has been dealt with speedily by an enhanced police presence and swift justice in special World Cup courts. 

The world class stadiums were all ready on time as was the transport system and accommodation has been readily available. 

Attendance will be over three million for only the third time in World Cup history, and the post final average attendance will be just under 50,000, exceeded by only two other tournaments.  The four largest stadiums which hosted almost half the games have approached full capacity.  Bear in mind that attendance at the games is determined by tickets used, not by tickets sold, as is the custom for American major league sports.  

Most important has been the welcome and support given teams and tourists alike by the South African people.  For them, hosting the World Cup is a miracle, or as the always effervescent Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner, described it, "a fairy tale come true."

A mere two decades ago, South Africans were still living under the throes of Apartheid. The racist system made political violence an everyday reality with no end in sight. 

That all changed in the early 1990's as Nelson Mandela walked to freedom after 27 years in prison. Mandela's freedom led a new 'Rainbow Nation' out of the darkness.

Today, South Africa stands at the threshold of being finally accepted. Not only as an example to the world on how to move resolve conflict, but as a nation with the wherewithal to successfully host the World Cup

South Africans of all colors united behind their beloved Bafana Bafana with even more fervor than they did in 1995 at the Rugby World Cup. Despite being eliminated in the group stage, their fans lost none of their fervor throwing support behind 'Baghana Baghana,' as they called the Ghanaian team in their quest to be the first African team to reach the semifinals. 

Even their tragic loss at the final hurdle as not deterred the nation. There is a renewed sense of pride, evident when Nelson Mandela became President. While many questioned the sanity of spending over $4 billion on the Cup, that sense of pride and the positive image from hosting the tournament is worth so much more. 

As the competition has progressed, more fans have flocked to South Africa. It's now expected that the number of visitors for the soccer will top 500,000, far more than previous estimates.

On Monday, South Africa will return to reality. It's country still plagued by crime, poverty, a dreadful AIDS epidemic, a lack of decent housing and an infrastructure that needs a lot more work.  

For millions of black South Africans, life has improved little from the rigors of Apartheid. But many others have prospered when previously all the doors of opportunity were completely shut. 

The foreign visitors will all be heading home with vuvuzelas packed in their luggage, and memories of a beautiful land and an expansive and gracious people. These visitors will no doubt spread the word about this bountiful land at the southern tip of Africa. 

As a former South African who spent the first 25 years of my life during Apartheid, where fear and anger ruled, I look on with pride and more than a little bit of Aboya

There is talk now of South Africa bidding to host the Olympics in 2020 or 2024.  After the World Cup, there is no reason to doubt their ability to host such a major event and this time the fear mongers will find no traction for their skepticism.

 

 

 

 

 

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