Kick Start

Kick Start image.jpg

By Eve Fairbanks, The New Republic, December 4, 2009

Turning off the main highway in Johannesburg, South Africa, our minibus taxi is stopped by a police officer at a roadblock. Our driver, a jaunty Zulu-speaking teen sporting a black baseball cap and an ancient plastic armband that might have been a “LiveStrong” bracelet from another geological era, pulls over to the side of the road and rolls down his window. The officer reaches inside, hooks his fingers through the bracelet, snatches the driver out of the minibus, and begins punching him. None of my fellow passengers twitch. “The officer wants a 50 rand ($6.50) bribe,” suggests one, twiddling placidly on his smartphone.

It was an inauspicious start to a little experiment I ran to gauge Johannesburg’s readiness to host next year’s World Cup games: “precreating” a tourist’s potential trip from a hotel in the business-chic suburb of Sandton to the Soccer City stadium right outside the famous black township of Soweto, where the World Cup final will be held, and then back to Newtown, an up-and-coming inner-city nightlife and museum hub. I love Johannesburg, but I had been wondering how the hell hundreds of thousands of foreign soccer fans will navigate this violent, chaotic city. Read more ...