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World Cup Stadium Construction Is Breathtaking, But What's Hiding in South Africa's Shadows?

June 11, 2010
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Apparently, there’s a little soccer tournament starting today called the “2010 FIFA World Cup”. I understand it will attract hundreds of millions of viewers from around the globe.

A couple days ago I received a press release from Owens Corning touting its glass fibers which are used in the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa. The newly redesigned stadium is indeed a site to behold. 

According to the company’s press release, “the newly redesigned stadium features fibreC® concrete panels from Rieder Smart Elements, reinforced with Cem-FIL® AR fibers, which reduce the weight and thickness of the concrete by up to 10 times compared to conventional panels. They are 100 percent recyclable; and enhance building life and durability with resistance to corrosion, fire, UV light and temperature variations.”

Congratulations to Owens Corning and other manufacturers that supplied state-of-the-art products for the stadium and other new facilities constructed for The World Cup.

I am not much of a soccer fan, but I am looking forward to seeing televised images of this stadium and other venues used for the matches. Architects, engineers and construction pros have gone to incredible lengths to design and build iconic facilities to capture the world stage.

In addition to the stadium in Johannesburg, a new stadium was constructed in Cape Town. While visiting South Africa last November, I snagged the attached photo of the stadium under construction.  Even from our mountain top perch, it was an awesome site. I look forward to seeing the finished stadium full of cheering fans.

While journeying through Cape Town and Johannesburg, we were impressed with the beautification program that was well underway. It was hard to miss the freshly paved roads, new hotels, and numerous infrastructure improvements.

I hope the televised coverage of The World Cup will reflect the beauty of South Africa, for it is a land truly blessed with incredible vistas and wildlife.

And yet I hope the coverage doesn’t stop there.

The world also needs to see that a huge percentage of South Africa’s population continues to live in squalor. The trip I participated in last year went into the Cape Town communities of Masiphumelele, Ocean View, Capricorn, Woodstock, and Red Hill.

While some of these communities included homes that might barely qualify as entry level in the U.S., most were shacks, many without running water, bathrooms, or electricity. Many of the people I met were beyond discouraged. They have no hope or dreams.

The sad truth since the end of Apartheid is that living conditions for millions of South African’s have not improved, and in some cases have become worse. The housing “settlements” (i.e. slums) hide the abject poverty so many endure.

My guess is some enterprising news organization or documentary journalist will take a camera crew away from South Africa’s tourist zones and expose what’s lurking in the shadows. I encourage you to watch and see for yourself.

Maybe you’ve considered a “vacation with a purpose”.  Most humanitarian organizations, church groups and work teams would love help from anyone with construction skills - even beginner level - join their ranks for a week or two.

Many organizations are working in South Africa to help those living in desperate situations. Three groups I can recommend personally are Extreme Response (www.extremeresponse.org), Living Hope (www.livinghopeusa.org) and Habitat For Humanity (www.habitat.org).

Enjoy watching The World Cup, but take a moment to consider those who are living in the shadows.
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