It is hard to believe it has been four years since South Africa opened its doors and welcomed everyone for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.

It is hard to believe it has been four years since South Africa opened its doors and welcomed everyone for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. And now, Brazil is preparing to do the same in just three short days. While the World Cup competition may only span the course of a month, its legacy has the ability to last forever.

When evaluating the impacts of hosting a World Cup, the way in which the event affects the Host Country once the tournament concludes has at times been criticised by those who believe the long-term impressions left behind are not worth holding the World Cup in the first place. Though these concerns are understandable, few people understand the potential, importance and challenges of a World Cup legacy better than Dr Danny Jordaan, Chief Executive Officer of the South Africa 2010 Organising Committee, who was able to offer his insight into this complex concept.

Jordaan spoke to and responded to critics’ claims regarding the value of hosting the World Cup, while also telling us about the current state of the legacy left by South Africa 2010 and why he thinks Brazil will benefit as hosts of football’s biggest event. How does it feel being four years removed from South Africa 2010?

Danny Jordaan: People say there are a few great moments in our history: the day Nelson Mandela walked out of prison, the day on which all of us went to vote for the first time in our country and the day of the Opening Ceremony, with the wonderful concert before the Opening Match. These are special moments and for us we will cherish them. Nelson Mandela came on the night of the Final. It was a bitterly cold night, but he insisted to come because he wanted to embrace the best of human spirit and be part of debunking the myth that Africa would never have the capacity to deliver such a complex, complicated event like the World Cup.

There were questions about what was going to happen in South Africa after the World Cup. Can you tell us what legacy you have seen the World Cup leave in South Africa?

Legacy is determined during the bid stage. What is it that must be left behind as a benefit for your country after the event? Remember, the event lasts just 30 days and you cannot construct a long-term plan and determine its success or failure by what happens over those 30 days. We were clear about what we wanted to achieve. Our country had a struggle to change the perception of South Africa and the African continent in general. People refer to the concept of Afro-pessimism. To show the world that Africa has potential and capability and that it is not a hopeless continent as it was made out to be, we wanted to change the notion of an Afro-pessimists’ view of Africa.

Africa is now a place for business, trade and investment. And this is what we want. But you have to break through the negative perceptions first. Perceptions, if they are unchallenged, become reality. And if you want the businesses of the world to consider coming to your country, then you have the responsibility to place your country’s name in the forefront of the minds of those who invest. And that’s what we wanted to do with the 2010 World Cup.

Would you agree that an investment in the World Cup is intended to be a long-term one cannot only be judged over the duration of the tournament itself?

For example, in preparation of the World Cup we built new airports in our country and invested in the Johannesburg OR Tambo International airport. As a consequence of our airport expansion programmes, we can have more aircraft landing. Before you can have more tourists in your country, you must first have an airport that can accommodate more aircraft landing.

When we invested in airport expansion, it was not for 30 days of the World Cup. That would be a total misrepresentation. It’s part of tourism growth in our country. And we have see tremendous growth as a result. 95 per cent of World Cup tourists said, ‘We will come back to the country’. 98 per cent of them said, ‘We will recommend to our friends, our family and others that they should come and visit South Africa’.

You cannot buy those results with all of the money in the world – and we tried. We spent 400 million Rand over a ten-year period on marketing. It didn’t work. The real-life experience of those who came to the World Cup and saw the country’s infrastructure and engaged with the South Africans is how you convince people to come to your country.

The media have claimed FIFA earned $3 billion on South Africa 2010, while the Host Country has been left in $3 billion of debt. What is the reality of that claim?

There is no reality in that claim. It is simply false. We did not build any infrastructure for the World Cup based on loans. So, we have no outstanding loans as a consequence of the World Cup. South Africa and every other country incurred loans after 2008 and as a result of the global economic crisis, but it is not a result of the World Cup.

As for FIFA’s profits, even if FIFA hosts the World Cup on the moon, the majority of that money comes from the television broadcast rights. And the companies who pay that have no presence in our country. So, it is a total misrepresentation. The revenues did not leave out country as it never entered our country. Ticketing is the other big source of revenue, which in any case is revenue that goes to the Organising Committee.

There have been criticisms about the stadiums that were built for South Africa 2010 and are now not being used. How would you respond to that?

We had ten stadiums. Four were existing stadiums; we built five and upgraded one. Of those new stadiums, two of them have now received teams with Premier League status in Nelspruit and Polokwane. It is important to have weekly use of the stadium to make sure it is commercially viable and those stadiums have those anchor-tenants, so I think they will be able to generate the revenue. The good thing is these are debt-free stadiums. As I have indicated before, we did not secure loans to build these stadiums. It was built with money provided through the budget process. And those who say that we have taken loans to build infrastructure must show us where.

You are aware there are some worries from the people of Brazil on the eve of the start of the World Cup. Do you understand their worries about the money spent for the World Cup?

I certainly understand that, particularly in developing countries. However, you cannot build a society that is focused only on building schools and houses. There must be recreation. You cannot build a society that has no possibility to create for the young generation in your country the opportunity to be whatever they want to be. And some of these kids dream to be the next Ronaldo, Pele or Neymar. And you must have the infrastructure and the stadiums in this case, so that they can live out this dream. But I think the balance always is that you must never use the money and redirect it from important social issues of health, housing and education. That is the responsibility of the government, to make sure that that balance is there. While we are concerned about addressing the social challenges, we must not use the platform that the World Cup creates for false arguments.