Can you feel it?

It is with some anticipation and trepidation that I write these first few lines. A certain nervousness surrounds me because the responsibility of this column is high and the standard that was set by Ari is even higher, but the opportunity to convey important messages remains priceless.

The 2010 Soccer World Cup is roughly a month away. By now everything should have been in place and ready for the teams (arriving shortly) with high hopes of doing well; the fans, with their expectations of being part of Africa’s greatest sporting feat yet, and eager to experience the numerous adventures that Africa holds for them.

We, the South African public, are ready to be a part of history, but do we all feel it where it matters most? Are we all revved up ready to roar? If you had asked me a year ago, I would have answered in the positive, but now? Sad as it might sound, it’s a negative: no.

  • No, because the public transport system is not what was promised to us.
  • No, because there are not enough wheelchair tickets.
  • No, because the ticketing system is not as accessible as it could have been.
  • No, because the stadia are not as accessible as they would have been, if we had been consulted and our input regarded.

These are all aspects of the 2010 world cup that would have been sorted out long ago, had the LOC regarded the input from the disability movement as useful.

My comrades did not protest in vain outside Fifa headquarters. The number of accessible seats has increased (slightly) but is still nowhere near what it should be, as per the National Building Regulations. The LOC has simply chosen to ignore the disability movement with regard to the available input and intellectual property being so generously offered.

This is not what we have been waiting for all our lives. We have been expecting more. We expected to be part of creating a lasting legacy for all.

South Africa was given a once in a lifetime opportunity to make up for all of the numerous and varied shortcomings in universal accessibility. By excluding an important stakeholder, namely people with disabilities, we have failed to take full advantage of the opportunity.

My friends who’ve managed to buy their tickets to watch the games, will certainly enjoy the experience and have lasting memories.

Those of us who are forced instead to frequent the fan parks and partake in the accompanying festivities, will have our lasting memories.

Yes, many of our daily routines will have to change on the days that matches take place in our host cities. Some of these changes will be major disruptions such as Cape Town’s Dial–a–ride service that will not be available on match days to long term and loyal patrons as it will be used to ferry spectators to and from the stadium.

Yes, this is a massive inconvenience to those of us who rely solely on this transport service but it is a necessary service for tourists who want to get to the game.

  • Yes, some of the changes will be long term, such as the improvements to our airports which will benefit people for years to come.
  • Yes, most of our cities will have an improved road system when all the road works finally come to an end.
  • Yes, we will have the Gautrain operating fully in Johannesburg in a few month’s time and thus alleviate the congestion on the freeways.
  • Yes, BRT will be expanded beyond the stadium precincts, and we will all benefit from these improvements.
  • So yes, we will have access to some of the spin offs of the 2010 world cup.
    Yes, come now, let us all use this once in a lifetime opportunity, as we host the world in our country.

And yes, let’s make the good feelings last till long after the final whistle has blown.

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