Dubbed the “Rainbow Nation” after the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa had much to be hopeful about. In 2010, it achieved heightened recognition among investors when it became the fifth member of the “BRICS” grouping of emerging market economies, along with Brazil, Russia, India and China.
While its economy and demographics differ from other BRIC countries, it has one thing in common with Brazil, Russia and China: It has hosted major global sporting events over the years. South Africa hosted the FIFA World Cup five years ago, and it hosted—and won—the Rugby World Cup 20 years ago. Similar to sports teams, promising economies sometimes fail to play to their full potential, and South Africa’s economy has seen some struggles in the past few years.
Sport is a national obsession in South Africa, and many observers have noted that the international sporting boycott of South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s played a pivotal role in bringing apartheid to an end. For many people in South Africa, the symbol that the hated apartheid era was finally over was when newly installed president Nelson Mandela, wearing a Springbok jersey, handed the Rugby World Cup to the captain of the country’s winning team.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of that momentous event, and while South Africa’s progress in this year’s Rugby World Cup might be more precarious, overstating the importance of sport in the country remains difficult. South Africa has gone on to host a number of international sporting events including the Cricket World Cup, along with Kenya and Zimbabwe, in 2003, and the FIFA World Cup in 2010.
New and refurbished infrastructure in terms of stadiums, transportation and accommodations created numerous employment opportunities and developed expertise and invaluable experience in hosting these world-class events. These events showcased South Africa’s ability to organise and host huge events on the world stage. In addition, it exposed the many wonderful aspects of the country to an international audience that would not otherwise have paid much attention to South Africa. The lasting legacy of these sorts of events in terms of the economy has been more on the side of tourism opportunities. Cape Town, for example, is a true world-class destination with many alluring features, including natural beauty, fine dining and even adventure sports.