Just before Italy walk out of the tunnel tomorrow evening to begin their defence of the World Cup trophy, the blimp will scan its lenses over the startling panorama which surrounds the Green Point Stadium. There's Table Mountain, there's Robben Island, there's the Victoria and Albert Waterfront. What a picture, what a country, what a con.
By rights, the eye in the sky should be sweeping across the Athlone township, across the squalor and the grime, before it reaches the Athlone Stadium. This is the venue where the original South African winning bid said the Cape Town matches should be held, this is the venue which the local government on many occasions insisted would be the city's primary venue. But Fifa didn't agree. "A billion television viewers don't want to see shacks and poverty on this scale," said one of the organisation's reports.
So instead of spending the 200 million rand (£18m) to make the necessary upgrades to the ground nestled in the football-obsessed environs, Fifa insisted the South Africans spend 4.5bn rand on a new stadium nestled in all the scenery. The vista would, of course, make it more palatable to all those billions who didn't have a clue there were social problems in South Africa and hence make it easier to sell advertising for the games at the Green Point, including a semi-final. And while they were at it, Fifa could lob another 20,000 or so seats on the plans to ensure they receive more revenue. Everyone's a winner. Well, everyone at Fifa, that is.
This is the reality of this World Cup. Not the camera crews sticking their microphones in the face of dancing locals, before, in their very roundabout and racist way, asking: "How grateful do you poor little Africans feel to the big, rich men for bringing their competition to your slums?"
The Fifa festival is dressed up as some great gift to the contingent, which will send the revenues soaring of local economies, local communities and local football clubs. In fact, it will do nothing of sort. Just as the Olympics never does what it promises any more, just as no event on that scale ever could do what it promises.
There have been enough well-detailed articles in the build-up to this and every other recent "sports event to bring humans together" to convince all those who can be bothered to read past the headlines that it is a total myth that the great sporting spectacles of our time boost the economic growth of the host nations. And as we set out on Britain's so-called "decade of sport", which may or may not include the 2018 World Cup, the alarm bells are ringing through the offices of every local sporting organisation, every charity and, if they are wise, every school and hospital. They could all suffer in the drive to deliver a successful event and not become a global laughing stock. For what? A fortnight of feelgood?
Ah, they say, but what about the legacy? What legacy? The legacy which saw South Korea having to pull down two brand spanking new stadiums built for the 2002 World Cup because no side could afford either the rent or the upkeep? The legacy which saw the famous Greek debt pile on a few more noughts because of the 2004 Olympics? The legacy which says that all these kids will jump off their couches and rush out to participate in sports before discovering non-existent sports fields boasting non-existent sports facilities? The only guaranteed legacy is a few votes for whichever politician fired up the bandwagon.
And for Fifa and the IOC, naturally. These two organisations are so far apart from what they set out to be that they would long ago have become unrecognisable to their founders. Just check the Fifa accounts from last year. They made more than $1bn, spent more than $863m, of which $172m went on development. $172m? That's not far off what Manchester City spent on development last year. Next year the Fifa balance sheet will be yet more anomalous. They are to make more than £2.3bn from the South African World Cup. Or, put another way, a quarter of the entire education budget for a country with a population of 50 million; a country called South Africa.
Then there's the obscene Fifa stockpile of $1bn of assets. For what? For the good of their sport? Or the good of their own egos sitting in their shiny Swiss offices, governing over what is merely a pastime like they are heads of state? Such power trips allow men such as the president, Sepp Blatter, to believe they are entitled to insist on luxury toilets in their hotels – at South Africa's expense – and imbue the organisation with the arrogance to demand the overriding of a nation's sovereignty to grant Fifa tax-free status, as well as guarantees that no protests take place when members of the public wake up to the outrage.
What has any of this got to do with the football? As sports-lovers we are just interested in the Messi on the pitch not the mess off it. Yeah, we mutter tut-tut and call Blatter and his cronies names. But then we go and afford them their life-force, the 22 million viewing figures which ensure their party is ever-replenished with the choicest caviar and bubbly.
We should finally acknowledge that this is a sporting and not a political disgrace. Just think, it was always supposed to be an escape from modern life; instead it is the grotesque encapsulation of modern life.
So we will all go on watching with our dreamy eyes, applauding our own interest in the very convenient notion that the Rainbow Nation has come across its pot of gold. And the cheek of it is, we will do so berating the South African horns, as if they're the only thing in danger of ruining this World Cup. But then perhaps that's why Blatter chose not to act on his initial threat and ban the vuvuzela – to drown out the din of that money-making machine in the background.
Look closer still and you may very well spot a Fifa-endorsed logo on the side of the horns. What a racket.Reuse content