World Cup 2034: Can Zimbabwe afford it?
By Langton Nyakwenda
Zimbabwe would require at least US$20 billion to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup considering the current state of the country’s infrastructure and the historical costs borne by other nations that have staged the quadrennial football show-piece.
The announcement of the “World Cup Dream” by the Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister, Engineer Walter Mzembi, last week has generated excitement inasmuch as it has invited scepticism.
The 2018 and 2022 editions will be held in Russia and Qatar, respectively, and bidding for 2026 and beyond is yet to formally begin.
A perusal of the total costs to governments that have hosted the past seven World Cup finals and the state of their infrastructure prior to the events show the huge financial outlay required.
The 2014 World Cup has cost Brazil US$14 billion, most of which went towards stadia works, hotels, transport and security services.
FIFA demanded a minimum of eight compatible stadiums for a successful 2014 World Cup, but the host nation used four more.
Around US$3,6 billion was spent on construction of seven new stadia and upgrading of five existing ones.
The 40 000-seat Arena Pantanal in the city of Cuiaba, for example, cost US$260 million while government auditors say the Brasilia Stadium gobbled around US$900 million.
At least US$900 million was invested in security, with over 170 000 professionals enlisted, and over US$200 million went towards modernisation of Brazil’s hotel network.
More was pumped into transport, with over 600 000 people flying in and three million domestic flights booked.
South Africa’s 2010 World Cup budget cost close to US$4 billion and the “2010 FIFA World Cup Country Report” released in 2012 said US$1,1 billion was spent on building and upgrading stadia.
Ten stadia in nine cities were used for the 2010 show-piece, five of them built just for the event.
One of the new venues, the 55 000-seat Cape Town Stadium, used around US$600 million while Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth cost US$270 million.
According to the post-2010 World Cup report, US$1,3 billion went to improving road, rail and air links; while almost US$400 million was spent on ports of entry to cater for the estimated 300 000 visitors.
The report, however, predicted a US$6 billion boost to South Africa’s economy in the medium to long term.
The 2006 World Cup hosted in 12 cities in Germany cost the European country about US$5,6 billion, with most of the funds going to transport and infrastructure.
Korea/Japan 2002 cost US$5 billion, while the budgets for France 1998 and USA 1994 did not exceed US$500 million combined as the two countries already had ideal infrastructure.
The French built a single stadium, the Stade de France (US$270 million) and the total hosting cost came to around US$340 million. Four years earlier, the United States used just US$34 million to host the FIFA World Cup.
Zimbabwe must, if it wishes to host the World Cup, build top-notch infrastructure over the next 20 years.
Eng Mzembi said he had already sounded out FIFA president Josep Blatter on the idea of bringing the global event back to Southern Africa — and competition to host these events is fierce.
Already, the Association of South East Asian Nations is planning a joint bid for 2034.
Eng Mzembi has hinted that Zimbabwe could collaborate with major cities in the region.
“Our idea is to have Harare as the host city but in collaboration with other major cities like Maputo (Mozambique), Johannesburg (South Africa), Gaborone (Botswana) and Lusaka (Zambia). All these cities are within a one-and-half hour flight of each other and this would be in the spirit of our regional solidarity.
“It is a dream that may be enjoyed by our successor generation and is in line with a tradition that is in our culture that you plant a tree that the shed will be enjoyed by other generations decades later,” said the minister.
Zimbabwe currently has one venue that can carry more than 40 000 people, the National Sports Stadium, but it does not meet FIFA World Cup standards. FIFA are strict on stadia, and have a standard of a minimum 60 000 capacity for a World Cup finals match, with parking space that can accommodate at least 10 000 cars.
World Cup stadia should have individual seats throughout, proper lighting, a public surveillance system both in and outside the venue, at least two first aid rooms for fans, a nearby helipad and enough space and rooms for the media.