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World Cup doubters were wrong: South Africa hosted a great tournament

With the World Cup final match between Netherlands and Spain tonight, South Africa confounds skeptics who predicted high crime rates and inept management of the World's largest sports event.

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Now, when the honest section of the press writes about the World Cup games, the stories practically glow with positivism.

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Among the best of these was a piece by the Guardian’s Johannesburg bureau chief David Smith, who noted that “low expectations were the hosts' greatest gift. When Armageddon did not happen and smiling crowds flocked to world-class stadiums, it was hailed as a glorious surprise, if not another rainbow nation miracle…”

Businesswise, FIFA does seem to have come out the winner in this World Cup, having pocketed $3.2 billion. But while the South African economy has received about $5 billion in overall revenues from the World Cup (about the same amount the country spent on stadiums, roads, and airports), South Africa may be the ultimate winners in the long term. The country has made a lasting impression on the fans who came here, and who will now tell their friends and family how gorgeous the place is.

The most valid complaint was about transport to and from games. Narrow roads to faraway stadiums like Rustenberg, and poorly-organized buses for taking fans from the parking lots to the stadiums and back meant that some fans missed games. Hundreds of fans missed the Germany-Spain semifinal game in Durban last week because there weren’t enough parking bays at Durban’s King Shaka International Airport to accommodate all the planes.

The skepticism has not all been external, and South Africans who are frustrated with the behavior of their government officials projected the same unresponsiveness, ineptitude, and venality onto the World Cup Local Organizing Committee and on the World Cup’s governing body, the International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA).

Perhaps the greatest result of these games was not a scissor-kick goal, or a booming South African economy, but rather a boost of confidence. Despite all the odds, South Africa can set its mind to do something, and do it well.

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