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When the mayor and I recently turned the sod for the Green Point Stadium, I described it as a victory for co-operation over division and compromise over intransigence. Indeed, pragmatism is going to be a critical ingredient as Cape Town moves towards 2010 and as we prepare to host the greatest sporting spectacle in the world.

If I could add a further victory to the deal, then it would be that we conquered, as Capetonians, our small-town thinking, our provincialism, our tendency to undersell ourselves.

It was this underestimation of ourselves that caused the 68 000-seater stadium at Green Point to be put on the agenda for us by the Local Organising Committee and Fifa. They understood the magnetism of Cape Town, they saw that Cape Town needed to stay in the World Cup for as long as possible, they recognised the ability of our hospitality infrastructure and the potency of our tourism products.

It was this recognition that inspired all of us to adjust our initial positions, positions we campaigned around in the elections, positions we invested in financially and around which there had been significant expectations.

The consideration of Athlone and Newlands as possible venues reflected our lack of confidence that we would go beyond the first round of the World Cup and our satisfaction with cornering the minimum tourism market.

Once we broke through our self-imposed ceiling and we all decided to compromise and move beyond our preferred venues and financial bottom lines, a world of possibilities opened up. Our investment in the stadium then took on the dimension of, not a millstone around our neck, but cheese in the trap.

When this transition was made in our thinking we thought of 2010 as a time of opportunity - what could the stadium attract that would make the World Cup meaningful and beneficial to the Western Cape and its people?

The provincial government immediately decided that for us the lasting legacy of World Cup 2010 should be a renewed public transport system. This has long been the Achilles heel of Cape Town, especially since Group Areas delineated the province into racial compartments, with black and poor people far removed from the economic, social and cultural centres of the province and City.

Over the next few years, R13 billion is to be invested in a transport system where different modes are in harmony, with an upgraded rail system as the backbone and efficient transport corridors facilitating the rapid movement of people. We intend piloting a single ticketing system.

Upgrades to infrastructure in the city centre in preparation for World Cup 2010 are expected to exceed R5bn. A further R12bn worth of investment is forecast for the Western Cape's hospitality industry in the run-up to the World Cup. This includes developments in and around the Waterfront, new hotels, restaurants and other facilities necessary to accommodate the 200 000 soccer fans expected in Cape Town.

Unlike the last World Cup in Germany, where hundreds of thousands of fans from across Europe could travel into a particular city to watch a match and then leave immediately, 2010 is a "resident" World Cup. Fans will not want, or even be able, simply to fly for at least 10 hours from Europe, for example, and then leave again. They will want to stay for at least a week or so, take in the beauty of the Cape Peninsula, the Western Cape and the rest of South Africa.

This means that our World Cup will have unique spin-offs for the local tourism industry, providing more job opportunities and other supply-related benefits, such as food and beverage spin-offs. As it is, the construction industry is operating at maximum capacity and the skills of artisans are in short supply.

World Cup 2010 will also bring with it intangible marketing benefits for Cape Town and the rest of our beautiful province. As with the cricket World Cup campaign in the West Indies, the world's media will focus on Cape Town and surrounds, showing off our natural beauty to billions of viewers across the globe and enticing them to our shores.

This year we're seeing the cameras zoom in on the rain forests, waterfalls and beaches of the West Indies. In 2010, the world will see, right in their living rooms, the glory of Table Mountain, the splendour of Cape Point, the heritage of Robben Island, the reality of our townships, and so on.

This is a spin-off that we would never be able to pay for in rands, dollars, pounds or euros, much less put a price to - it is invaluable. Conservative estimates put the contribution to our gross domestic product at about R21bn, based on 400 000 tourists passing through our city.

What, then, will be the economic benefit in the months and years after World Cup 2010 as others who do not come to the tournament book their holidays to experience the beauty they saw in their living rooms during the campaign.

The benefits for Cape Town and the Western Cape, social and economic, on the back of a single event, in this case World Cup 2010, by far surpass anything we could ever have imagined in the fledgling years of our country's new democracy. That we will be hosting a semi-final match in our new 68,000-seater stadium should not be underestimated. It is an opportunity to showcase not only the natural beauty of our province, but also the talent and energy of our people.

World Cup 2010 will change the face of Cape Town forever. The transport and hospitality infrastructure, in addition to the new "cheese in the trap" stadium, will leave a lasting legacy for our people and will undoubtedly equip us, not only to make Cape Town a viable venue for other major events, but to cross the structural barriers created by our history and allow us to build new social and economic partnerships, relationships and friendships as we move steadily towards making the Western Cape a true home for all.

Ebrahim Rasool is premier of the Western Cape {jcomments on}