A focal point for this spending is Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, which will be the site of the opening game June 11 and the final July 11. Government spokesmen argue that it is an investment that will pay dividends, and journalists are speculating about the windfall resulting from the influx of hundreds of thousands of tourists.
But is the money spent on the World Cup indeed an investment that pays dividends for the host country?
According to soccer writers Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski, in their book, “Soccernomics,” the World Cup is a great excuse for spending but not necessarily a wise investment. They argue that host countries do not make money from hosting the tournament.
There is, however, an interesting fringe benefit: The people of the host country are happier as a result of their efforts. Polls from previous tournaments indicate that “staging a World Cup won’t make you rich, but it does tend to cheer you up” (to quote Kuper and Szymanski), possibly because of the party atmosphere or being the “center” of the world for a month.
But what about closer to home? What are locals spending for the World Cup?
I have some buddies who are going to the World Cup, and I asked them what the trip would cost them. Expenses include flights, hotel, transportation and game tickets.
My buddies were able to cash in airline miles, saving a huge amount by avoiding that $2,500 airfare to Africa. Hotels cost $80 to $100 per night, and game tickets run about $100 for the group games but get more expensive in later rounds. My friend bought everything individually, but he priced out package deals that run about $6,000.
A friend from Holland has the added expense of flights within South Africa as he follows the Dutch national team around the country.
My family expenses are a bit more convoluted. We knew we’d want to watch the games, so we decided to upgrade from basic cable. We could, of course, get the games on Univision, but we wanted to understand the commentators, and my Spanish is simply not up to the task, despite the efforts of Harbor High’s teaching staff during my days there in the late 1980s.
There is no point in getting the stations with the games if the TV is lousy, so we went out on Black Friday in November — yes, we have been thinking about the Cup that long — and bought a flat-screen TV ($480) to replace our old set. We determined that a Blu-ray DVD player ($120) would complement the TV nicely.
Because the new components did not fit into the “hand-me-down” entertainment center we had received from my parents about 10 years ago, we decided to have a custom entertainment center built ($2,800).
And, well, if we’re going to get an entertainment center built in, now’s the time to replace the carpet ($1,000) and paint ($70).
What began as a simple cable upgrade turned into a $4,470 living room remodel.
My son — age 9 and possibly more of a soccer fanatic than I am — and I have bought some other incidental items because of the World Cup, too. In the past couple of months, I have spent about $150 on books and magazines, while my son bought World Cup trading cards ($10).
All this personal economic irresponsibility is, of course, completely justified — we’re in an economic downturn, and a recovery occurs when consumers open their wallets. The president said so.
Consequently, if I decide to order father-son U.S. national team jerseys (about $65 dollars each), it’s not out of weakness on my part. No — I’m doing my patriotic duty to stimulate the economy.
n Greg Olson is a soccer enthusiast and the athletic director at Baymonte Christian School in Scotts Valley. This is the second in a series of columns leading up to the mid-June World Cup in South Africa.