As the buzz surrounding FIFA's January visit begins to fade, the global vote for Egypt gets stronger. Inas Mazhar looks at the supporters, and assesses the benefits the World Cup would bring
Egypt bidding for hosting the 2010 World Cup has been the talk of the town for almost a year now. In a nation which has been compared to 1986 World Cup hosts Mexico with regards to affluence, the big bucks involved so far -- for press conferences, visits, invitations, facilities and construction -- have of course been the cause of many eyes to open. Football is unquestionably a part of the culture and in every Egyptian's blood, but critics of course have questioned if the expenses are worth it.
To those at the core of things, the potential benefits were clear. But to properly engage the nation on every level and propel every circle of society to feel as impassioned about the bid as they are about the sport, the Egyptian Football Federation and the Ministry of Youth has to do some work.
"Making the benefits clear to the top officials and authorities was of course critical because we need the support of the entire nation," said Minister of Youth Dr Alieddin Hilal. "In the case of winning the Word Cup bid everyone will be a winner."
The public, of course, likes to deal with facts.
"We thought about it and called experts to carry out a study to answer the questions of lots of Egyptians who keep on asking and questioning how Egypt will benefit from hosting such a costly event," Mohamed El-Siagi, Egypt's head of the bid file committee and Egyptian Football Association board member told Al-Ahram Weekly. "Many people may believe that hosting and organising an event as big as the World Cup is a waste of money since it costs millions of dollars," he explained. "But I can assure you from the experience of previous organisers of the World Cup editions that the feedback is unbelievable. We will spend millions, but will gain billions of dollars."
The anticipated impact of Egypt's hosting of the FIFA World Cup 2010 on the nation's economy has clearly provided much reason for debate. The consequence was a study commissioned by the bid committee and conducted by Pi Group Consulting. Its assessment of the Mondial's impact on the nation revealed a fruitful future -- bringing both tourists and revenues streaming into the nation.
The team of experts -- comprised of six prominent Egyptian economists from institutions including Cairo University's Faculty of Economic and Political Science, and the National Institute of Planning -- provide an assessment of the anticipated pre-event, during-event and post- event economic impacts.
The economic study was based on a number of premises. Among those, it assumed -- given the figures of Germany 2006 -- that 1.1 million tourists will come to Egypt to watch the games and that each visitor's daily expenditures will be around $130.
"With more than 130,000 hotel rooms, the country is already well equipped to host not just the participants, but the influx of visitors as well," tourism expert Mohsen Bahgat told the Weekly. "The hotel capacity in Egypt almost doubled in the last decade. The growth is indicative of the nation's focus on tourism, and is symbolic of the international popularity of the country. That increase would definitely have a positive impact on Egyptian tourism. It's not only the popularity for Egypt is already famous for being one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the world, but it is the investment in the tourism industry which would definitely flourish whether before, during or after the games."
Bahgat added that most of the previous World Cup hosts saw the blossoming of their tourism industry after the event -- even if they had no exceptional prior record.
"It's the ball that made people run after it for thousands of miles away all over the world," he said.
The study's main findings, include:
- Gross Domestic product (GDP) will increase by more than $1.87 billion due to the pre-event and during-event activities.
- 394,786 job opportunities are expected to be created as a result of preparations for the event and hosting it.
- Government revenue is expected to increase by $272.67 million.
While the nation as a whole will feel the fortunes, specific sectors of the economy are expected to especially reap the rewards. Capturing the lion's share of the gains will be the tourism sector, with hotels and restaurants attracting more than $669.2 million of investments.
The study also shows that 31 sectors of the economy will benefit directly or indirectly from hosting the World Cup in Egypt, including the household sector with a projected $1.123 million in overall income.
Publicly announced revenue estimates by government officials report the overall forecasted figure to stand at nearly US$2 billion, benefits also including tens of thousands of jobs, and a plentitude of indirect economic benefits.
Egypt has tentatively budgeted US$1.5 billion for the organisation, of which US$865 million would go towards building and renovating stadiums. Officials have said they already have 65 per cent of the infrastructure they would need.
"Aren't these results great!" Hani Abu Rida, treasurer of the EFA, told the Weekly. "That's what we wanted the public to know, that we are not going behind illusions and we are not wasting the public money. It's true that all parties will benefit and all would be for our benefit. The results of this study offer much reason for national optimistic since the World Cup will help us solve, to an extent, a major problem facing the world: unemployment. If we were awarded the bid, then lots of jobs would be created for the coming seven years. I believe that these results should encourage us even more to work for the success of our bidding campaign."
The figures, as does the hosting nation, remain in the air. 15 May is the day FIFA announces the 2010 host, and determines the economic fate -- in part -- of an entire population.