“This is the first time I ever saw so many whites in Soweto,” a smiling store owner said to the local news.
I agree, this was news. Orlando Stadium, located in Soweto, the all black suburb of Johannesburg and the epicenter of the student uprising of 1976 recently hosted an all South African Super 14 Rugby final. In the match, the Bulls defeated the Storms in a sport I am actually starting to understand (and really appreciate.) But the setting was the story. Soweto served as a place for continued healing. A place for bringing the rainbow naiton together. A place where all South Africans watch the final and will also watch World Cup matches.
South African history may not be as pretty as its landscape, but Nelson Mandela decided not to live in the past. He chose to build for a future. He chose to forgive. Remarkable. And the more time I spend here, the more remarkable I tend to believe it is.
If you watced the movie “Invictus” than you know how the South Africa used sport to help bring a divided nation together. (if not put it on your Netflix list – a must). And still people might point to commerce or laws as more effective means, but I tend agree with Mr Mandela, and believe the roots of such an event need to be in the simplistic. Sport is that simplistic. We can look to the past to see the ancient greeks and the Olympics to understand how sport celebrates man (and woman). How games celebrate humanity. How games (sports) bring us all together.
Now in a few days, the countdown clocks are everywhere, the world will focus on South Africa. The country plays host to the world’s largest event – the World Cup. Some infrastructure may not be complete, but the stadiums, the nation, and the people are ready.
And I too am ready after nearly a month in Africa. No, I am not ready for the increased “tourist tax” charged by hotels and especially the hostels. But ready for the wave of emotion set to sweep across Africa and the world.
So yes, I’ll probably spend more than I thought. But I will look at it differently. I plan not to focus on the immediate economic impacts on myself (or even the nation of South Africa), but plan to watch and witness more than just the matches and “mistakes.” I plan to be a part of the longer term value this World Cup brings to a nation, a continent, and the world. And I ask you, my readership, please join me in that thinking.
And join me – Go USA! Stay adventurous, Craig