With just under 500 days to go until kick-off of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, optimism surrounding South Africa's role as host of the world's premier football competition appears to be riding at a high level in the nation. Market research commissioned by FIFA suggests that three out of every four people believe that South Africa will be ready by the time the event starts on 11 June 2010.
According to the first instalment of a six-wave public opinion survey conducted amongst South African citizens by international research company SPORT+MARKT, there is an overwhelming feeling of pride concerning South Africa's hosting of the tournament; 88 per cent of respondents state they are "proud that South Africa is hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup". Highlighting the significant social role the event can play in the future of a host nation three-quarters of the sample feel the tournament "will unite the people of South Africa". What is more, 77 per cent state they are now more confident the tournament will be a success compared to how they felt in 2004, when South Africa was chosen as host for 2010.
The perceived advantages of hosting the tournament are also widely recognised by South Africans. For example, 91 per cent believe the FIFA World Cup will have positive effects on the South African tourism industry, with improvements in the country's infrastructure such as roads, public transport and telecommunication expected by almost 9 in 10 (87 per cent). The importance of the role of host is also firmly acknowledged with 83 per cent agreeing that "the 2010 FIFA World Cup will improve South Africa's image abroad".
At the same time there are several factors that are of concern to South Africans: 58 per cent feel the FIFA World Cup will result in inflated prices for residents; 53 per cent expect increased traffic congestion; and just over half of South Africans (53 per cent) worry about the level of crime during the FIFA World Cup in June and July 2010 (36 per cent disagreed, 11 per cent were unsure).
Despite these concerns, the results of the survey bode well for the FIFA World Cup, with the South African nation appearing to recognise the many advantages of hosting the event. As this survey will be conducted at regular intervals up until the 2010 FIFA World Cup, it will be interesting to track how attitudes develop and fluctuate over this period.