South Africans experience priceless World Cup
The country's president Jacob Zuma is already declaring it of massive economic benefit to the country, even despite the high cost of all the new infrastructure. The impact of uniting the different race groups and given them all an unusual nationalistic fervour has been marked.
But these factors are difficult to measure accurately and only time will tell if there is a long-term benefit, both economically and socially. What is clear though is that South Africa has had an image makeover.
It is a country with record tourist inflows every year (12-million was the latest official annual figure) but it has a growing reputation worldwide for a high crime rate, social upheaval and general anarchy.
The worst fears however have not been realized and the image of a happy place, thoroughly enjoying the party at the World Cup, despite the sometime frigid winter temperatures, is an important message to send out to the world.
This is even despite the disappointing performance of the national side, Bafana Bafana, who are the first hosts in history not to get past the first round. To be fair, not much was expected of them but when they went on a run of 14 unbeaten games, suddenly it spurred on a national fervour that was unprecedented.
People of all colours rallied together as they have never done before and it is a pity the side did not get further in the tournament, just to see where this unusual togetherness would have gone.
A win over the battered French was a big tonic but by then the odds in their group were heavily stacked against Bafana Bafana and their chances of a second-round place slim.
The team will remain the focus of interest going forward, now onto the 2012 African Nations Cup qualifying campaign where they share the same group with titleholders Egypt and have a tough task if they want to qualify for the final in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
A new coach is due to be announced in the next days; Pitso Mosimane has been nominated but not yet signed his contract, the football association delivering on a previous promise to give the job to a local after four years of Brazilian coaches.
The legacy of the 2010 World Cup is vastly improved infrastructure, from rail, roads and highways to six new iconic stadiums. The challenge is to keep them all sustainable, and they are now handed to private operators to make profitable.
But already the 2010 Local Organizing Committee chief executive officer Danny Jordaan has said that football will have to reach across to rugby, the country's other popular sport, and only if both codes use the stadiums will they be sustainable.
The Springbok team, which is rugby world champions, will play the All Blacks of New Zealand at Soccer City on August 21 in the first move of what should be a mutually beneficial migration.
Local football hopes to benefit from heightened interest spurned by the World Cup although it already has a healthy following from mostly the country's black majority. The many hundreds of thousands of whites who went to watch the World Cup might be tempted to now also watch a little local football but it is likely to be just a passing interest.
Their focus is more on European football, particularly the English premier league, which has almost saturation coverage on South Africa's pay-TV channel. Ajax Cape Town are to use the new Cape Town Stadium, which initially is likely to be far too big for their usual crowds of between 5,000-10,000, but they are seeking to tap into the 'family' market in their city.
Durban club AmaZulu has announced its home ground will be the Moses Mabhida Stadium but Soccer City will have no regular tenant just yet. Before its massive renovation, Kaizer Chiefs used to use it as a home ground but now it is likely to be for the major cup final and derby matches only.
The league benefits more from all the small stadium upgrades that were also done for the World Cup. At least 10 venues in the black townships received a renovation, importantly getting new pitches, and were used through the tournament as training sites for the various teams. Previously run down stadiums are now in much better shape and more attractive to potential spectators.
There will be a continuing debate over the merits of the cost of the World Cup, against the backdrop of declining standards in hospitals and schools in South Africa and still, even more than 15 years after the end of apartheid, a massive housing shortage.
There were few dissenters when the money was flowing from the treasury to the World Cup and there are few now. But it does not get away from the fact the billions could have been far better spent in needy areas.
But there has also been a huge psychological boost for the country, and in a way this is priceless too.
About the Author
Mark Gleeson lives in Cape Town and is a world-renowned authority on African soccer, having spent the last 25 years writing about the sport. He was honoured for his services to the game on the continent with a Merit Award from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in 2008. He has won numerous journalism awards in his native South Africa, where he currently also works for satellite TV station SuperSport as a match commentator. He also writes extensively on both South African and African soccer.