Saturday, May 14, 2011

South Africa FIFA 2010 World Cup Postscript

It has been almost a year and I am only getting ready now to bare my soul.

1.  I was wrong.  The event did take place in South Africa.

2.  My son was a McDonald's player escort at the Uruguay vs. South Korea match for which we already had tickets.  Because of the ridiculous call time, 0830, for a 1600 match, we had to overnight in Port Elizabeth, otherwise it was an all expenses paid day for parent and child.  Somewhere there's probably a good photo or video of son Gordon standing in front of an Korean player.  We lost the lottery :  no "money" shot of Gordon
 exchanging toothy smiles with Uruguay's Diego Forlan.

3.  My brother's first 3, maybe 4 matches attended were 0-0 draws.  Watching England was a major contributing factor.

4.  The City of Cape Town put on a good show.  Once the local Metro Police were banished from the immediate vicinity of the stadium, traffic flowed.  The vehicle search facility outside the stadium was worthy of
the former east German border protection police.

5.  I only saw 2 stadiums.  Cape Town's was an "E" ticket.  Fabulous.  Port Elizabeth's?  Worthy of demolition.  Both are now white elephants.

 6.  Very, very few overseas fans came.  5 came to stay with me and promptly switched to the Japan base
golf resort, Fancourt, running specials due to 30% occupancy.  We had no problem booking deep discounted rooms in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, even Bloemfontein on game nights.  We had a spare room in C.T. which I gave to my gardener and somehow he got a free primo match ticket from the ticket office.    We made a lot of Dutch and Uruguay fans happy as we gave away tickets to matches in Durban and Bloemfontein.  By and large, South Africans wanted to go to matches but not endure the traveling.

7.   The only price gouging on food I detected was at the Engen petrol stations on the major highways.  Suddenly, "Cool drinks", i.e. sodas were double their usual price.  Surprisingly, the prices at the concessions inside the stadiums were quite reasonable for a big event, so reasonable they consistently ran out.  Roving refreshments were far more miss than hit and reached their nadir in Port Elizabeth when the sellers began aggressively begging for tips.

8.  I doubt if any World Cup has ever had a greater SNAFU than the new Durban airport closing its runway to arriving commercial flights 5 hours before the start of a semi final match.  More than 1000 fans missed
the match.  This non-event was largely hushed up and goodness knows, how many other disasters were also.
Meanwhile, the South Africans continued to declare victory over the naysayers.

9.  We soon discovered that going to a match in Port Elizabeth, parking wise, was akin to going to a village fete.  Dead easy, just a short walk to the stadium.  If you followed the official directions, you ended up stranded as many were for half the night outside of Rustenburg after the USA vs England match.

10.  Apart from a handful of matches, the stadiums were not even half filled.  Reports of attendance were
concocted.  The cricket (South Asians) and rugby (the blanke) crowds were hugely supportive.  If the local blecks did not have a direct interest or free tickets, they were absent.  At least local TV coverage was
superb, though I kept the sound OFF.

11.  The SAPS, the national constabulary, saved FIFA's bacon in the Cape.  Superb policing, they replaced
thousands of the bottom of the barrel security workers at a few hours' notice.  Unfortunately they allowed themselves to be used as FIFA's pawns, arresting ticket touts for selling match day tickets at below face value.

But they redeemed themselves for busting Paris Hilton and her rent a celebrity crew for smoking dope in public.  And since when has the World Cup felt it necessary to use celebrities to promote the event?

12.  More bizarre was the Waka Waka business.  I was an early adopter of Shakira when I lived in Mexico in 1996-1997, but last time I checked she's not African.  So they made it a collaboration with pan African group, Freshlyground whose presence was to legitimise the undertaking, as though Freshlyground were not capable themselves of working with a songwriter/producer of John Hill's commercial instincts;   like magic, Freshlyground were no longer accomplished musicians but reduced to the level of feeble sex objects in the video (the only medium that counts, not the music but the visuals of Shakira gyrating).  I am not sure whose idea it was to contribute the huge copyright infringement ... if left unsettled, a court case might have revealed how little songwriting Shakira actually did on a song that she previously claimed as her own work.

So much for Freshlyground's exalted artistic principles.  And I like them!  

13,  South Africa now has 2 decent international airports, maybe a third in Durban.  Like most contemporary
world airports, their terminals resemble shopping malls but uniquely cater mostly to non international travelers and are accessible to the public.  Cape Town airport still does not have a public ground transportation link to anywhere.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A day in South Africa (a fragment from September 2007)

I will make the effort soon to give a real flavor of living in South Africa, a chronicle of everyday occurrences and people that make this a very special country.

Meanwhile, yesterday was a quite wonderful day, the first of September, an early Spring day that began chilly in the morning and by late afternoon hinted more of summer than of any other season.

Whilst my son will not miss Saturday morning cartoons of TV for anything, I love to cruise with the window down some 15 miles along the coast from Knysna to the small town of Sedgefield and do some shopping at the Wild Oats Farmers' Market held there each week.

There are real artisans of the kitchen and field selling their wares here and so many become friends from the weekly interaction.

First of all, I have a breakfast omelette at Sung Yee's easygourmetstation.


Once you live in the Cape, you realise that fine days like yesterday are to be cherished for they are almost always harbingers of inclement weather on the way; sure enough, we awoke the next morning to the steady drizzle of a Cape winter storm.

The Devil Wears Prada Redux

I finally caught a glimpse of the recent Devil Wears Prada film on cable TV here in Thailand. To aid my viewing pleasure, I had the sound on mute. What surprised me was how much the actress Anne Hathaway physically reminded me of the young Anna Wintour. Anna was never a great beauty but she had her attractive qualities as a teenager, which is when I fleetingly met her in London in the late 1960's. And actually, I kept thinking that a much more interesting film scenario would be that of the young Anna Wintour hopping from bed to bed as she hatches her plan for world fashion domination.

But getting back to the present : in looking at a phto of Anna in situ, in her office at Conde Nast, I am struck at how much she now resembles, who else, but her late mother, Nonie.

In spite of having had bore 5 children, I never found Nonie particularly mother-like. But there is no doubt that she devoted her life to making a home for her husband Charles Wintour and their brood. But the home as I recall it, always had a cold air to it. Lack of style. I wonder how Anna arranges her domestic life ...

But Nonie was definitely the passionate half of the married duo. Charles was legendary for his coolness under fire and his being cool to the point of passionless at the best of times. He could have been sketched by Le Carre. But he was endowed with a superior intelligence and compulsion to nurture journalistic talents. He was the cheer leader for the swinging sixties, albeit from behind the curtain of his editorship of the Evening Standard.

The other thought I had was whether being a fashion maven in any way betrayed her father's legacy. Well, the flip side is younger brother Patrick's career as a political journalist.

I can't help but think that Patrick and the world would have been better off if he had chosen to have become a thinking man's soccer correspondent, somewhat in the mould of Brian Glanville but with a gritty political slant colouring his writing rather than the Tuscan sun always ready to pop out in Glanville's.