Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Tiered model necessary for 2010 FIFA World Cup infrastructure investment

With the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany now relegated to the pages of soccer history, South Africans have noted with considerable interest the high standards of professionalism and the vast amounts of preparation that took place to ensure the tournament was a success for FIFA, the governing body, the teams, as well as millions of local and international fans of the game.

Hosting an event on the scale of the FIFA World Cup is no mean feat. In Germany, with its existing infrastructure of roads, airports, hotels and stadia, preparations for the massive influx of spectators, teams, supporters and journalists included infrastructure spending of around 6-billion Euros - about R42-billion!

"The preparation necessary to host the FIFA World Cup is enormous," says Dr Raj Siriram of Siemens Southern Africa. "While the stadium serves as the point at which preparations are focused, the fact is that the stadium is the last link in a complex chain."

He explains that the infrastructure necessary to successfully host soccer matches on the scale and dimensions required by the FIFA World Cup is staggering.

"From rail networks to roads, from availability of fuel and electricity, to water and sanitation - there is far more that must be suitably geared up for the enormous influx of people than at first meets the eye," he says.

Very few suppliers are able to offer equipment, expertise and delivery capability across the entire spectrum of infrastructure required to host an event on the scale of the FIFA World Cup. Dr Siriram says that Siemens is, perhaps, unique in its capability to marshal worldwide competence centres in this regard.

"Before the spectator even gets anywhere near the stadium, the company provides the complex infrastructure that characterises the modern way of living - from railways, power generation and distribution, the automotive industry, for oil and gas extraction and processing, water, sanitation and more," says Dr Siriram. "We also have the capacity for business services delivery, such as planning and execution for project delivery; and while we may not have all these competencies in every location around the world, we are an international company that can leverage global resources to meet local needs."

Dr Siriram notes that there is worldwide recognition of the fact that sporting events on the scale of the FIFA World Cup represent a tremendous opportunity for economic stimulation and potential growth - and as such, governments invest considerable sums in preparation for hosting these events.

"However, such investments should also have a lasting positive effect for the citizens of the country after the event has moved to its next destination," he says, adding that investments in infrastructure should therefore be made in a tiered model.

"It starts with the stadium, which includes items such as points of information, parking management, smartcards and access control. Inside the stadium, there is the electronic seat usher, floodlights, television distribution systems and video boards, in addition to non-specific requirements such as water and power reticulation," he says. "At the second tier, there is ticketing, telecommunications infrastructure, hospitality, accommodation and to some extent, electricity transmission and distribution. Finally, there is the third tier, which includes the economic infrastructure of the host country, the airports and mass transit systems, the power generation capacity, telecommunications backbone and so on."

When executing against the enormous mandate of hosting such an event, he says risk is a key factor that has to be considered - and he believes that it is Siemens' experience that stands it in good stead against the competition.

"Through our ability to offer a fully integrated solution as well as a proven delivery record in the Olympics and the 2006 FIFA World Cup for example, Siemens has demonstrated its capabilities in delivering the infrastructure necessary for these events," he says.

Dr Siriram again stresses that as preparations are made for the 2010 event, the infrastructure and facilities should not be considered in the short term.

"This is about partnership and the opportunity to use a great sporting event to build capacity and exchange skills in this country, not only for the FIFA World Cup but well beyond," he concludes.


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