Jeff Warner PHOTOGRAPHIC, Golden, Colorado, USA

Saturday, September 24, 2011

9/24/11: Green Point Soccer Stadium

Heidi being on call today, the boys and I had scheduled an FDP (Faculty Directed Practicum) to see the inside of the new soccer stadium built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup Soccer Championships. Bria Holcombe, the anthropology professor, brought along a friend of hers from Cape Town to give us some local perspective on things. As in so many towns across the world that have been chosen as Olympics venues, the 68,000 seat stadium in Cape Town has become a classic ‘white elephant’, sitting mostly unused, the government using resources to maintain it that really should be directed elsewhere.

The shell of the old Green Point Stadium (half of it anyway), sits unused, disregarded, only dozens of yards from the new stadium.

South Africa being chosen to host the 2010 World Cup was probably a bit of both a ‘blessing in disguise’ and ‘cutting off one’s nose to spite the face’. On one hand, it showed the world that this formerly ‘officially racist’ country was capable of putting on a world class event, absent any violence, terrorism, etc. On the other hand, razing half the old Green Point Stadium to build the new FIFA stadium had some dubious consequences, some of which were stumbled (bumbled?) right into by the government. The former stadium was a place that Cape Town residents gathered on both weekdays and weekends for casual recreation, school sports, etc. Curiously, half the old stadium remains intact, the field of which is covered by piles of dirt and rock, tractors aimlessly pushing stuff around, rendering the former social meeting place a useless waste of space. The new stadium sits empty, entrances guarded by security, currently ‘under renovation’ for who knows what, leaving us to stare at the exterior, unable to gain access. We could see no one working inside.

Although there are occasional large concerts there, the stadium is now mostly a money sink. Presumably the government seriously considered the financial ramifications, deeming the good press a fair tradeoff for the outlay of money they really didn’t have, considering the extreme widespread poverty in the country. However, it appears they didn’t think through future use issues. Several thousand residents who once lived adjacent to the old Green Point Stadium—where the new stadium is now built--were displaced to build the new one. The new stadium sits adjacent to the pathetic remains of the old one, half torn down and unusable, and yet they refuse to allow residents to use the new one for the things that the old one provided (recreation, school sports, etc.). A mind-numbing conundrum that the current government clearly needs to address, given the financial and social problems within South Africa. Keep in mind that a half-dozen other stadiums were built across the country to provide the FIFA-required venues to host a worldwide event, and FIFA (by contract) limited what could be done with the stadiums for a period of time afterward (i.e. rugby matches were specifically disallowed). As an aside, the World Cup Rugby Championships are in progress in New Zealand while we are here, and ‘Springboks’ jerseys can be seen everywhere in support of their team (did you see the movie ‘Invictus’?).

NO: guns, knives, spears/shields, missiles, umbrellas, firecrackers, aerosol sprays, cigarettes, hypodermic needles, stun guns, alcohol, dogs on leashes, flags (esp. of the 'old' S. African variety), um, not sure what, chemistry experiments, fireworks, glasses of wine, soccer balls (?), motorcycle helmets, volume, cameras, video, and last but not least, boomboxes.

After the ‘non-tour’ of the stadium, the boys and I caught a taxi downtown to see if we could find some ping-pong paddles, though unbeknownst to me it was a national holiday (Heritage Day), and few businesses were open. Reade and Tate and I walked back to the waterfront from there, and got to see some of the heavy ship maintenance that goes on in dry docks, chatted briefly with some Filipino tuna fisherman who were doing some maintenance on their lines. At one point a local woman engaged Reade and Tate while we were looking at the boats, and she was there with her brother and sister, seeing ‘the big city’ for the first time in what may have been decades. Twenty minutes later she ran across again, and asked me to take their picture in front of some statues of national significance. I did so, and she thanked each of us with a big hug and kiss, seeming to be quite moved by my willingness to capture an image of them on this day.

Some filipino fisherman attending to their equipment.

The lady on the left was so, so thrilled that we stopped to take their picture!

The dent and near=gash in the Exporer's hull made while the fuel boat maneuvered to get ropes in the Canary Islands.

Every time we get to port, ship maintenance of many kinds goes on while we enjoy our destination.

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