BBC BLOGS - Andrew Harding on Africa
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Will the World Cup transform SA?

Andrew Harding | 17:14 UK time, Thursday, 10 June 2010

First - a prediction. This is going to be the friendliest World Cup anyone can remember. The atmosphere here - subdued for so long - has suddenly exploded into the deafening, exuberant fever of a township party.sa595ap.jpg

There will also be some typically African chaos - transport going wrong, things starting late, VIPs stuck in traffic. But nothing major.

This is a milestone for the country - proof that the rainbow nation is still capable of miracles. It will help to change the way people see the whole continent - not dramatically perhaps. But it is an important reminder of how much is going right here, as well as wrong.

Will the tournament transform South Africa?
The pessimists will point to places like Nelspruit - a town now saddled with a giant, pointless, expensive stadium, surrounded by people who still have no jobs or decent education. Four weeks of football, and a few celebrity campaigns are not going to solve this country's daunting problems.

But the realists will argue that the World Cup was never meant to fix South Africa. Its role is more catalytic - it's forced people to do necessary things - like upgrading airports and fixing roads - years faster than they would otherwise have done.

Just as important - but far harder to measure - is the way these next few weeks will bring people and races closer together. I've seen it happening already.
Maybe it's just papering over the cracks... the power of football is easy to exaggerate. A post-tournament hangover is a real worry.

But right now, this fractious nation is proud, confident and more united that it's been for years.

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