I wrote a bunch of random and mostly disorganized thoughts about my trip to the World Cup. I will break them up in a two posts in order to avoid boring my readers too much. Hopefully someone finds them interesting. Click on read more to check it out.
This was perhaps my most unexpected and most pleasant surprise: the food in South Africa is incredible. I don’t mean just the local, traditional South African things (which are delicious – ever heard of malva pudding?) but almost every single restaurant we visited. Amazing Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, etc. And the prices were very accessible, at least when compared to food prices in the U.S. The steak I had at a place called Belthazar in Cape Town was so good that it almost made me cry. Very impressive
South Africans were extremely happy to be hosting the World Cup and you could tell just by looking at people. Everyone was welcoming and warm and in a constant party state. Being suddenly surrounded by hundreds of thousands of tourists can quickly become annoying, but the locals didn’t let it happen.
Also, given the country’s recent history, it was interesting to see little racial tension / racism. I’m not saying it’s not there, it might be. I’m just saying it wasn’t apparent to the World Cup-going tourist. You did see, however, that the percentage of white and black people varied markedly depending on where you were: high end mall goers VS vuvuzela street merchants, for example. Sadly, this is the same in the U.S. too.
World Cup vibe
Everywhere you looked you could tell it was the World Cup. The streets were fully covered with posters. Every store was decorated and had World Cup related memorabilia. There were flags of the 32 participating countries in every single corner. TVs were everywhere and always tuned to the games or the highlights or the news. Anyone you bumped into, local or otherwise, you could discuss the latest results, goals, etc. It’s been 16 years since I last attended the World Cup (USA 94), and trust me, it was nothing like this. Americans just weren’t into it.
The sheer number of Bafana Bafana jerseys that people were wearing was astounding. Everyone had what looked like the original $70 Adidas version. Impressive.
Organizing a tournament of this magnitude is quite a feat. From what I hear, they were preparing for years, cleaning up the cities, fixing the roads, building stadiums, power plants, hotels, etc. While things were not nearly as smooth as in Germany nor Japan, most things seemed to run well enough.
South Africa spent a lot of money for this, perhaps more than a responsible country should have, and they will be looking at beautiful but unpaid for and empty stadiums and hotels for quite some time.