For the past year I have neglected making new blog entries. Not that I have not been writing but I have been adding to others' blogs rather than my own.
Currently, I have been greatly preoccupied with the next FIFA World Cup in 2010.
As I have a magnificent house in South Africa and intend to be here for at least the next 2 years, I would love to welcome as many old friends from around the world to visit and for these friends to know that whatever happens there's a warm, comfortable space available to them.
But for those happening upon this page looking for answers to their 2010 questions, they will also find a warm welcome here. I make myself available to answer their queries as best as I may. And to help, I am going to post here many of the comments
I have been making elsewhere, as I believe they do contain nuggets of useful information.
I remain a 2010 sceptic : despite my having obtained tickets, spending even more money on home improvements I remain unconvinced that 2010 will not be moved. The only detail that gives me more hope that it won't be moved is ironically the current potential for a swine flu pandemic halting non essential travel for the foreseeable future therefore making 2010 a television spectacle rather than the fan fest on a scale that South Africa is ill prepared to host.
Here are some of my recent writings :
27 March 2009
I live in South Africa and have been to a few World Cups and Olympics in my time.
I am actively preparing for 2010, increasing the amount of accommodation in my house, going to upgrade my car, etc. Nothing will please me more than to have old friends from around the world basing themselves in my home(s).
That said, I have felt since mid 2007 that the event would be moved and my fears increase daily, not only due to the woeful lack of logistical preparation at this end but the ongoing economic collapse elsewhere.
I was somewhat surprised to read elsewhere many people regarding the USA as an alternate site. I think the evidence is compelling.
FIFA will be facing a financial catastrophe in reduced sponsorship and ancillary fees going forward. The U.S. hoteliers, airlines and car rental agencies are facing massive under utilization in the summer of 2010 and will make FIFA smile with offers of tens of millions room nights for FIFA to resell at huge mark ups.
Over here in RSA, there are no hotel rooms, not compared to any medium sized US city. The few hotel chains that exist here are shelving expansion plans. No trains. Some one wrote the busses are dodgy here. The major lines are great, just avoid Roadlink and make sure you are met in major cities. Right now the inter city busses are running empty, but come 2010 there will be no busses available for the public. I predict that the press corps will have to make their own arrangements.
There are wonderful roads in RSA and there are some horrific bottlenecks, too. When you come as a tourist to RSA, you generally have a great time with unbelievably low prices and huge, empty spaces to explore. If you come as a celebrity, you say "what crime?' because you're enjoying security that mere mortals have to do without.
But compared to European cities, there's a lot less street crime, but it's the gratuitous raping and killing that spooks all of us here. I enjoy the lifestyle here but I live in an area without serious property crime, but you'd better believe we have security measures in place.
Much, much more serious is the carnage on South African roads. And 2010 represents a real challenge. For a variety of reasons, including livestock on the roadways, even the fenced ones, it is almost suicidal to drive on unfamiliar roads at night here. Yet, owing to the general populace's reluctance, especially the Boere (!), to spring for overnight accomodation en route, people drive insane distances here, leaving Cape Town at 4 in the morning to arrive late evening in Jo'burg. For 2010, with the shortened winter daylight hours, everybody will be driving at night, like it or not!
FIFA have made the situation far, far worse.
Other than hosts South Africa who are stealing an advantage by playing all their group matches at altitude, i.e. in the north of the country, all other teams will be darting from one of the country, from high altitude to sea level and back, thereby creating huge strains on the transportation infrastructure. Even sillier is FIFA scheduling matches on 6000 ft high plateaux with 20:30 kick offs. Whether the weather is wet or dry, it will be freezing at that time of night.
Someone suggested experiencing the WC by hanging out in England. Not a bad idea. For 2006, I was in Germany and never got inside a stadium, except for a tennis stadium which was party central every time Germany played.
Oh, the ticket distribution system is a shambles. so far. At my local bank branch, the other day I was the very first applicant and initial sales are about to close. I sent a friend today to a bank in a larger city and he told me they seemed to be making up the rules on the fly.
And as FIFA know all too well, the Confederations Cup is a non event, no one's buying tickets, no public awareness, none of the new stadia ready, all matches to be played at altitude.
31 March 2009
Somehow we got all 3 of our local South Africa ticket apps in before the deadline today.
We were the only applicants at our local FNB branch, 3.5 hours from Green Point, so quite close in S.A. terms.
Even if the bank tellers are up to speed, the process is very lengthy and full of pitfalls.
The process is definitely not that outlined in the brochure. The most serious issue is FNB not allowing people without a RSA i.d. to purchase cat 4 tickets, even when the lead applicant is South African. This is not going to sit well with the folks back home in other African countries.
The involvement of FNB is extremely underhanded. The bank is involved for marketing reasons only. The explanation of limited internet access for applicants is so bogus!
How did it go for people applying at FNB in the big cities? Huge queues?
I applied for stadium specific matches as there is no chance I will want to drive to the Highveld from the Cape where I live.
I also applied for wheelchair tickets (I may have to go for back surgery soon) and if successful, that will be like winning the jackpot. Though I will probably have to invest in a motorized scooter to get me the last few kilometers into the stadium.
15 April 2009
It's a matter of scale. South Africa can host a myriad of sporting events successfully, such as the relocated Indian Premier Cricket League. But the WC is far, far bigger and South Africa does not have the infrastructure to cope nor has it made meaningful progress in providing such. Hollow promises were made to FIFA and the local populace by the LOC and it is now that the people on the ground as well as FIFA and the national federations are finding this and other realities out for themselves.
I am buying tickets as I want to go along with the many friends from around the world that I expect to host in accomodation that I control. I have added
2 additional en suite bedrooms to my principal house and am looking to have a 7 seater vehicle available rather than making everyone squat in the back of my bakkie (pick up truck).
At the 1974 WM (FIFA WC) in Germany, I hitched rides and stayed in youth hostels located right next to the various stadiums. At the 2006 WM, again in Germany, I saw that indoor camping was provided on site at the various stadia. As things stand right now, none of this will be possible at 2010.
This very week the ATP professional tennis tour has an event in South Africa called The Soweto Open, being played close to where the expansion of Soccer City is nearing completion. The players are staying in hotels in Sandton, more than an hour away and all of the official people involved are advised to only travel to the site in the secure motorcade. Are they over-reacting?
Maybe we can get a first hand report from a tennis fan going to these matches ...
I think South Africans as a whole are some of the greatest people in the world and that's why I live here. With good information, people will have the time of their lives here and won't believe how low living costs are in terms of foreign currency. I'd say the visitors' best chance for a great stay will be to spend most of their time outside the big cities and only venture in for the matches.
17 April 2009
Each applicant was able to apply for a maximum of four tickets per match and for a maximum of seven matches only. Out of the total of 1,862,319 tickets requested from 205 countries, 555,871 tickets were drawn successfully. Of those, 245,948 tickets were drawn to South African residents - this corresponds to 44 per cent of all tickets successfully drawn during this first phase of ticket sales. Outside the host country, the highest number of tickets drawn was to residents of the United States (69,208 tickets), followed by the United Kingdom (39,421 tickets) and Germany (29,330 tickets). From the applications received, the most popular team was England, for which a total of 228,822 team-specific tickets (TST) were requested and for which the total number of available TSTs was 8,895. With regard to individual match tickets, the most popular ticket category was Category 4 and the most heavily oversubscribed match was the final, by a factor of 3,000 per cent.
Very few tickets were released to the public in this sales phase.
But of those few tickets, a large percentage were the designated low priced tickets, situated behind the goals.
Danny Jordaan is not telling us what percentage of South Africans were successful. It could be that there were as few as 10,000 total applicants from South Africa, some of whom were not even buying the cheap tickets but are dual citizens buying TSTs for their favorite teams.
What is obvious is how few tickets (as usual) are being made available to the general public. And, as usual, the bulk of tickets that make it to the black market will be from allocations given to national associations and to a lesser extent, sponsors.
Phase 1 of the 2010 ticketing was a non event in South Africa. No white South African that I know cares about 2010 per se, only what it might entail for the economy and they are getting pretty blase about that, too. The Cape Coloureds are deeply embittered about being excluded from the construction jobs and though they will be excited to have 2010 happen, once again I don't know of one who applied for tickets.
Oh, I am glad to say that I did not apply for any tickets to the final. I went for stadium (coastal cities) specific tickets only.
23 April 2009
The sad reality is that South Africa is the origin of many fraudulent credit card transactions and some banks may have a complete block on transactions emanating from here.
Many people have reported "Johannesburg" as part of the payment advice; that and the country code "ZAF" would be the tip off that the transactions originate in South Africa.
For those coming here, you should notify your banks and credit card companies in advance that you will be using your cards here as they will routinely block their use without your doing so, once several transactions show up. Foreign currency gets a terrible exchange rate in South Africa and is not advised for obvious security reasons.
Generally speaking, South Africa has plenty of ATM machines but some of them are picky about which foreign cards they will accept. I would never rely on just one or even 2 pieces of plastic to get me through life here. That said, ATM machines are essential for obtaining cash here rather than using the physical banks.
23 April 2009
Speaking as a fanatic non smoker ...
The laws are one thing, reality is another ....
In spite of recent anti smoking legislation, South Africa remains a smoker friendly country.
Hotels all have smoking rooms and I see people smoking at the reception desks all the time. Non white staff are still highly reluctant to give white customers or anyone else for that matter instructions not to smoke.
I see people smoking at petrol stations all the time, especially coloureds. Whites seem to prefer sitting in their cars puffing away and flicking ash out of the windows while their car is being serviced. By the way, it's full serve (no self serve!) at all petrol stations here!
Where non smoking is enforced, such as hospitals or food stores, you have to wade through a haze of smoke at the entrances.
Near most taxi ranks (South African version of bus stations for non whites), there will generally be a pall of dagga (cannabis) smoke.
I was surprised to find smoking permitted in the stands at a major tennis tournament. Fortunately, few lit up. Surprising as many members at my former tennis club would smoke and drink beer, even on court.
I think many South Africans assume they can smoke when visiting a stranger's house.
And tobacco is ridiculously cheap here! Even for major brands.
26 April 2009
For getting around during 2010, domestic flights are the best option ... we'll see how that goes, in terms of price gouging and flight cancellations.
People keep talking about trains. There are almost no inter city trains left running in South Africa. There is no surplus rolling stock to be placed in service. Other than a couple of main lines, the lines themselves have speed restrictions of 40 km/h or so, as they are lucky to see 1 train per week. The Transportation Minister, Jeff Radebe, has been full of hot air since day 1 concerning infrastructure improvements.
Like Mexico, Thailand and other so called 3rd world countries, the best option are VIP busses ... though not as good here!
The most reliable is
as a fall back
Oh. many former train stations usually serve as ad hoc inter city bus stations.
As for traveling Durban-Port Elizabeth by road. That is strictly a day time only road for 75% of the distance with ultra high vigilance required.
The operators in the Kruger will be rubbing their hands in expectation. It is
the only decent accommodation located near the Nelspruit stadium. Remember to take the malaria prophylactics beforehand.
Oh, I live in S.A. flyover country!
26 April 2009
Camping is the #1 accommodation option in South Africa. It's a rite of passage for a white South African male to buy his first caravan!
Every single town and village had its caravan park for overnight visitors. Now many are in disuse, away from the holiday centers.
The unfortunate detail for 2010 is that it is taking place in mid winter.
The schools have co-ordinated their holiday schedules with 2010, so I imagine indoor camping will take place. But even the former whites only Model C schools do not heat their classrooms, let alone their assembly/sports halls. So bring artic rated gear.
The normal rate for a luxury bed and breakfast in a small town is approx.
R 250 p/p. Those rates will at least double, at which point the whole country will sleep in their parked caravans and have strangers stay in their unheated bedrooms, but with hot showers down the corridor.
But NOTHING is organized at this point. But knowing South Africans, the small towns will rise to the challenge and small town South Africa is a very special place.
The absolute key for visitors will be securing their car rentals. They will soon learn the ropes of visiting this great country.
26 April 2009
We will see in due course if FIFA allows the cup to actually take place in RSA, but so far the local Organizing Committee (LOC) have been pitiful in their efforts and FIFA has been covering for them behind the scenes.
Advance ticket sales have been by past WC standards nigh on dreadful, except for the fans as they are seeing more successful requests than ever before.
The logistical problems are such that I would NEVER consider traveling from my home in the Cape to 2010 matches in the Highveld, even though I recently had a very enjoyable week long trip to a major tennis tournament in Johannesburg.
Why the difference? The tennis tournament was held in an ultra high security casino complex called Montecasino. If you were a player or had money, you could stay in of 2 hotels on site. I chose to save money by staying at a very good chain hotel, 3 km City Lodge down the road. But any time I drove back to my hotel at night (walking NOT an option), I assumed I would be hijacked at any moment ... so I never allowed the car to come to a complete stop, I ran red lights at T junctions (which is permitted, just as in Mexico City).
The hotel had no other guests for the tennis. The tournament drew its crowds from around the local Gauteng province. I was a VIP so I did not pay admission but tickets were cheap, under $10. Ice cream cones were 25 U.S. cents each.
In spite of the security, there was at least one gang working the ATMs (working elaborate mechanical scams that result in malfunctioning machines) and I was lucky that all I had to do was replace my swallowed ATM card at my local South African bank the next day.
RSA is spoken of as a top vacation spot. Indeed it is ... there are probably more upscale, ultra luxury resorts here than anywhere else in the world. But in toto they serve a few thousand well heeled tourists at a time. There are bed and breakfasts everywhere where you will meet the most wonderful hosts but again they serve a few thousand guests per night, when considering the entire country. Outside of Johannesburg, hotel rooms are numbered in the hundreds in each of the other 2010 cities. Nelspruit only has the Kruger to the north able to provide hotel accommodation.
Fortunately, most South African cities now have secure enclaves, usually centered around a local casino. Even Nelspruit has one! In Cape Town, there are 3 big areas ... The V&A Waterfront, Grand West casino and the Canal Walk shopping mall at Century City. Port Elizabeth has the Boardwalk casino complex.
The biggest danger to 2010 visitors will be the South African roads. No matter that South Africa is the greatest country I have ever driven in, the highway death toll here is beyond comprehension, affecting all manner of vehicle and races. The highways simply have not been upgraded in any meaningful way as promised by the LOC. There will be 1930's era narrow 2 lane roads forming vital links in the 2010 traffic patterns. On 2 of the most important roads in the country, the N1 and N2, there are bottlenecks through towns without bypasses. It will be winter with limited daytime driving hours.
As for security, nobody knows but we fear the worst. FIFA will make sure their people are protected but nothing is being prepared for the general fan population. We have had gun battles between different police forces in Johannesburg in the past year. Running battles between the police and security guards in Cape Town. When commuters are dissatisfied with the metro train service, they torch the trains. Nobody knows what will happen when thousands of local fans without tickets want to see their favorite team play.
Yet, I just went to an annual festival held in a small town here that has transformed itself from a high brow arts festival to being a local variation of spring break (though held in the autumn!). Teenaged kids walking the town unmolested at all hours, tent hopping. But the kids flocked to this town precisely because it is not the big city.
I am sorry, you just cannot compare the experience of visiting Germany to visiting South Africa. Under the right circumstances, South Africa is a far richer one. If you were to come now, you would be absolutely shocked at how cheap it is to stay here. Last night dinner for 3 in a steak house cost 10 euros total and that was for a pizza, chicken burger, pork schnitzel that covered my plate, 2 milk shakes, coke zero; we all took most of our dinners home with us in doggie bags!
But those top resorts in South Africa will try and charge hundreds of euros per day. These days they are largely empty!
If I could not afford to live in a small town and run a car here, I'd be living in Germany (where I also have ties).
28 April 2009
I may be wrong, but I feel as a "floater", someone who does not support any nation in particular, I may be in a small minority of those purchasing tickets.
Most people who spending huge amounts to come to South Africa are doing so primarily to support their favorite nation.
We are seeing this reflected in the demand for the relatively expensive TST packages.
But the structure of the 2010 group matches seems terribly flawed.
Anyone following a team in the group stages are forced to base themselves
in the Highveld, in the Johannesburg area. Unlike previous world cups, group matches will not be geographically clustered. Normally one would expect Cape Town and Port Elizabeth to be hosting the same group matches, this time they are not. Of the 10 sites, 3 are coastal (Durban, being the 3rd) and these sites will receive a mandatory visit from each team (apart from hosts South Africa)..
It just won't make much sense for nation specific fans to base themselves at a coastal city, as all but one of their group matches will be played elsewhere.
On the other hand, within reach of Johannesburg will be the proximate Soccer City, Ellis Park, Loftus Verfeld, with reasonable access to Royal Bafokeng, Bloem and Polokwane. Nelspruit may be a bit tougher.
Winter just isn't the best season for the Highveld. Cold and dusty is the best description. In my part of South Africa, the Klein Karoo in the Cape, winter is glorious for the most part, with a climate not that dissimilar to Palm Springs, California or Scottsdale, Arizona. I am beginning to feel in common with many parts of South Africa, 2010 will pass us by.
I hope for all our sakes that I am wrong!
29 April 2009
The problem with the Johannesburg area is that nearly all of it looks like a city under siege : high perimeter walls topped with electrified fences is the norm.
This is much less prevalent in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and hardly ever seen in small towns in the Cape.
The wealthier suburbs of Johannesburg are in the north with Sandton the de facto center of the new Johannesburg. The Eastern side of Pretoria is the favored side. One of the few idyllic small towns nearby is Hartbeespoort, just a great base for matches in Gauteng and Rustenburg. "Potch" is a pleasant college town about 90 minutes from all these mentioned cities.
There's also the historical settlement factor to consider : in the north, most towns owe their existence to mining and are about as charming as most mining towns tend to be. On the coast and in the Cape, there are many picturesque towns dating from the Dutch and British colonization periods and the 1900 Ostrich boom that are thriving once again and do not have a serious crime problem, e.g. carjackings and home invasions.
In the Cape Town area, Durbanville and towns to the east are generally o.k., also north of Blauwbergstrand on the west coast. Again eastwards from Somerset West, along the southern coast. In the Port Elizabeth area,
consider Port Jeffereys/St Francis area on the western side and Grahamstown/Port Alfred/Kenton on the eastern side. There are dozens of other small quiet towns elsewhere in the Cape, one of the largest, George with its own airport (GRJ).
I had a meeting with one of the leading citizens in my town (Ladismith in the Western Cape) who is organizing the local 2010 initiatives of his own accord.
There is ZER0 organization or leadership coming from the LOC. If we can get the message out that the many small, wonderful towns of the Western and Eastern Cape are ready to host the world, then the world will experience one of the greatest countries in the world and maybe one of the best WC's.
But as things look, we may get bypassed even as tens of thousands of visitors experience extreme frustration in the cities.
There are 11 official languages here but only 3 that are widely spoken, English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa/isiZulu. Unfortunately there are probably 11 versions of English that are spoken and I find most of them fairly incomprehensible at first and that includes certain variations spoken by native English speakers. But we muddle through here. The Standard Received English that is used in TV commercials is dated and almost never heard any longer in the UK ... very few people actually talk like that on the ground.
In Johannesburg a great place to hang will be Montecasino ... ultra secure complex with dozens of restaurants and bars with a piazza that will almost certainly have a big screen set up.
In Cape Town, the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront and probably the Grand West Casino Complex. For those looking for an "edgy" experience, Long street will be touted, but I would give it a miss.
In Port Elizabeth, the Boardwalk casino complex.
Small towns that are a lot of fun when full are Knysna, Mossel Bay, Grahamstown, Jeffreys Bay and Oudtshoorn.
Even my very small town of Ladismith has its own pub crawl these days, around 5 different night spots.
Internal flights usually cost between $50 and $200 one way with the most frequent flights between Cape Town and Johannesburg. JNB-DBN can be cheap but other city pairs tend to be more expensive, even though shorter.
The leading low price airline is kulula.com, so wherever they fly, fares will be held in check. flysaa.com has the most flights by far and is Star Alliance. Their budget division is called flymango.com
For One World mileage, there's BA Comair.
Obviously, early booking is advised. It's hard to imagine too many extra flights being laid on to cope with the demand ... the system is already overloaded, particularly in Johannesburg airspace. I am guessing there will be a large number of charter aircraft movements and the government could conceivably unclog the system by restricting those flights to Waterkloof (Pretoria) and Ysterplaat (Cape Town), both military bases.
The tragically funny story this week is the Government announcing it has the swine flu scare in hand, despite a couple of confirmed cases of local tourists ill after returning from Mexico. They have ONE operational temperature scanner and they are cranking it up at Lanseria Airport, a minor Johannesburg airport used mainly for executive jet movements. They say they are trying to source a couple (!) more scanners for the main Johannesburg airport. No mention for Cape Town or the other airports.
At this point we can only hope as nothing useful for visitors has been organised.
The Confeds Cup is designed to be the "dry run" for each WC. In this case,
it is already a massive failure. Only half the stadiums will be utilised, none at the coast. Only one match is a sell out at this point (Italy vs Brazil) ... they will need to have at least one sell out at each of the stadia to ascertain the logistics required.
The recent election is actually good news. President to be Zuma is the only politician who can mobilise volunteer action and probably keep the various stakeholders from their continuing shooting war (I am not making this up).
In the Western Cape, we will have a less corrupt administration with a grip on reality, so the so far untackled logistical problems might get addressed sooner rather later. The underlying difficulty in Cape Town is that the new Green Point stadium is being built with ZERO thought as to access (I stand corrected but unbowed! See below).
Unfortunately, it seems fairly clear that fans will be required to walk the last so many kilometers to/from the stadia. Now in Germany, this was optional. Fans could either ride the U/S bahn right up to the stadium or they could follow a red carpet all the way from a town's main square to the stadium complex. For parking all you had to do was park near a train station and ride a train the rest of the way.
They have already implemented this approach with the recent ill attended match between South Africa and Norway in Rustenburg. FIFA was most unhappy.
But as I said at the outset, we can only hope ...
30 April 2009
I'm not sure I am the right person to speak on this subject as I live far, far away from Johannesburg ...
If you are not going to stay at a location like Montecasino (2 hotels), Sandton Square (multiple hotels in the vicinity) or a home stay where the hosts will pick you up ... there's not going to be much choice but rent a car.
Besides Sandton Square and Montecasino being likely hang outs for 2010, I am pretty sure there will be group transportation from those locations to the various stadia.
They are promising that the new Gautrain will be operational in time for 2010, but until it is, we're guessing at how it will work. In theory, you'll board at the airport and be able to travel to Sandton. Unfortunately, the onward routes to
Johannesburg Park Station and Pretoria are uncertain to be operational in time for 2010. Park Station would have provided a very good transit point for onward travel by bus to both Ellis Park and Soccer City. Pretoria similarly for Loftus Versfeld.
For those renting cars, both Montecasino and Sandton Square have huge amounts of secure, indoor parking, though Montecasino is cheaper, charging only R 10 for an unlimited stay.
Staying in Soweto is really only an option for those interested in a township experience. In practical terms, you will be a long way from anywhere else.
At this point I have no idea whether any of the luxury Johannesburg hotels will have availability for the general public. A nice, reputable chain with several hotels in Sandton but not immediately adjacent to Sandton Square is
Off season or weekends, their rates are as low as R 400 per night per room, using their fun www.bid2stay.co.za booking portal. R 1000 is close to their peak rate. We'll see if they up it to R 2000 or more per night.
As far as where to stay in the Johannesburg area, we are shooting in the dark until we know what are the actual transportation plans to the 3 area stadia, Soccer City, Ellis Park and Loftus Versfeld and which staging locations will be used.
CTGuy has lambasted me in the comments below for being ignorant of a Integrated Rapid Transit Plan (IRT) for Cape Town.
Well, I thank CT Guy for leading me in the right direction but the fact remains
that Green Point stadium will not be operational for the Confeds Cup nor does it have public transportation at this time. That's right, there is no public transportation between Cape Town airport and the city, let alone Green Point. Or have I missed a Golden Arrow bus in there somewhere, CT?
As I have written elsewhere, I think the change in political leadership at the provincial level after the recent election so now the same party (DA) controls both the metropole and the province will mean things might actually get done.
But this IRT was only greenlighted in August 2008, a little late in the day. Let's hope it gets finished on time and sufficient busses are operational!
Similarly, getting back to Johannesburg, the contentious BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) there is basically designed to take traffic between central Johannesburg and Soweto, which is about as useful for the general populace as the first operational phase of Gautrain.
The fact remains that the BRT is facing organised, violent resistance from the taxi (minibus) constituency in Johannesburg and if anything, the Cape Town taxi community is more prone to violence (dozens, if not hundreds killed in turf wars).