Two white elephants are born in Africa - Australia mustn't breed own
MICHAEL COCKERILLDecember 5, 2009
All clear ... a soldier checks out Green Point Stadium in Cape Town. Photo: AFP
Location, location. Sepp Blatter's folly looks like a giant toilet seat, and could produce just as much waste. Rising out of the parkland at Green Point, squeezed between the mountain and the sea, Cape Town's World Cup venue is an impressive piece of architecture with an equally impressive price tag. But the short-term gain is likely to produce a lot of long-term pain. Nobody knows how it will be put to use when the caravan rolls out of town.
It's an issue which resonates for Australia's World Cup bid, particularly in the week when Frank Lowy has to hand over a file which details the infrastructure commitment for either 2018 or 2022. White elephants cast a big shadow, after all.
In Cape Town, the sensible option never got off the ground. To renovate the city's major rectangular stadium at Newlands, on the other side of Table Mountain. Newlands, of course, is a rugby cathedral. But there is inherent suspicion between the two rival codes in South Africa. Those suspicions were put to one side in Bloemfontein, in Pretoria, and in Johannesburg. But not in Cape Town, or in Durban, where FIFA's ego got the better of it. Blatter wanted the iconic location of Green Point, and got it. In Durban, the new stadium is, literally, right across the road from the city's rugby headquarters at King's Park.
It's fair enough that football should want a legacy from the 2010 World Cup. Australia will want the same. But in Cape Town, and Durban, rugby won't be shifting to the new venue post-World Cup. Two new white elephants have been born. For instance, Cape Town's two professional clubs, Ajax and Santos, share their own venue at Athlone, which will be perfectly suitable for needs long into the future. Like rugby, they won't be moving to Green Point after the World Cup either. The message for Australia is clear.
It's a message which seems to have been heeded, if this week's announcement of the $450million upgrade of Adelaide Oval is any guide. Football fans may be in uproar, but it's the right solution to a complex situation.
The key to a World Cup legacy for football in Australia isn't simply in bricks and mortar. It's as much about the leasing arrangements, and making sure football leverages its bargaining power to get the best possible deal in terms of cost, and access, to the upgraded venues.
Federal Sports Minister Kate Ellis can't guarantee that, but she insists the Adelaide Oval model is the right one for the World Cup bid.
''I'm really excited, as the local member, about the announcement,'' she said during her visit to Cape Town this week. ''It will be fantastic to have the hub of sport in the centre of Adelaide. If you know much about South Australian sporting politics, you'll know there is a long history of division amongst some of the sports. This, I think, shows the atmosphere this bid will be delivered in. That is, sports working in partnership and recognising there are benefits in this bid, not just for football, but for a range of sports.''
Football Federation Australia chief executive Ben Buckley has noted the restive mood of parts of the football fraternity about the announcement, but also defends the logic, saying: ''What's important to FIFA is that football prospers, that there's a residual benefit, a legacy, for the game. But there's got to be a practical element. Our plan is a responsible plan, but it's a good plan for football.
''I think Adelaide Oval is a great example. Adelaide has been crying out for a world-class venue that all sports can utilise. The legacy for football is not just for the World Cup. Adelaide United can use it for big matches - for instance, if they were to host a grand final - and we could play Socceroos games in Adelaide, which we haven't been able to do until now. So it's not just about AFL and cricket. It's a win for everyone.''
And not a white elephant in sight.