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A very expensive lesson

WHEN South Africa’s winning bid to host the 2010 World Cup was announced on May 15 2004 in Zurich, 2010 seemed ages away.

That was six years ago and many African countries thought that by 2010 they would have made enough preparations to angle for the spinoffs from the football event.

With nearly 300 000 people expected to visit South Africa during the football extravaganza many African countries — especially those in the region — predictably expected economic spinoffs from the World Cup.

Many talked about the possibility of hosting participating teams for their pre-tournament camps.

Others anticipated an avalanche of football tourists.

This enthusiasm was not without justification.

Lesotho was one of those African countries that saw the 2010 World Cup as an opportunity to cash in.

Being an enclave of South Africa, Lesotho is probably one of the few southern African countries that were perfectly positioned to benefit from the event.

Proximity was our biggest advantage.

Today the 2010 World Cup, which in 2004 was six years away, is now five days away from the kick-off.

It does not need much analysis to see that Lesotho will not reap the anticipated benefits of the World Cup being hosted in our vicinity.

No participating team is camped in Lesotho.

No local hotel has reported a rise in occupancy.

If anything, many hotels and lodges say their bookings have remained static as if the world’s biggest football event is taking place in another continent far away from here.

Our holiday resorts have not received major bookings from tourists as anticipated.

In short, we will have nothing to show that the 2010 World Cup was held in a country that completely surrounds us.

As a nation we must admit that this as a monumental failure.

We have failed dismally and our tourism authorities must take full responsibility for that.

As we mourn our failures we must seek to understand how six years could have gone by without us doing anything to prepare for the 2010 World Cup.

But the answers are not hard to find.

One of them is that Lesotho has never mastered the art of preparing for the future.

We are a country that lives for today and believes tomorrow takes care of itself.

And we like to think that things will take care of themselves as and when they happen.

Unfortunately the preparations for the 2010 World Cup didn’t do that – things didn’t move because we didn’t push.

From the beginning we never had a proper strategic plan to market the country and improve our infrastructure for the 2010 World Cup.

Because we were not reading from the same guidebook, we never pulled in the same direction.

The results of such appalling lack of planning and focus are empty hotels and resorts at a time when our only neighbour, South Africa, is having nearly 300 000 visitors.

For this, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

It was only three months ago that our tourism authorities announced that they were grading accommodation facilities, a requirement that we must have known was crucial to Fifa’s accreditation process years ago.

We are just five days away from the 2010 World Cup yet Setsoto, our only stadium with some modicum of international standards, is still being renovated.

Our marketing was as pathetic as was our real preparations in terms of infrastructure and facilities.

Apart from Setsoto we have no stadium to talk about.

Our roads leave a lot to be desired.

Our hospitals are clearly way below the standards that are required by tourists and national soccer teams.

We therefore need not wonder why we are so miserable when our neighbours are ecstatic.

As the adage goes, you reap what you sow.

We did nothing to cash in on the World Cup so we will not even get scraps.

This embarrassing episode must teach us something about the importance of better co-ordination, planning and implementation.

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