This week marked the 20th anniversary of the unification of Germany, an event that symbolises some extraordinary parallels between the hosts of the 2006 and 2010 editions of the World Cup, writes Craig Urquhart.
When Germany and South Africa slugged it out for the rights to host the tournament in 2006, they both used two of the most momentous events of the 20th century - the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Apartheid - as campaigning tools. And these two momentous events are inextricably interlinked.
While East Germany provided military training and weapons to liberation movements in southern Africa, West Germany had established extensive trade ties in the region. The fall of the Berlin Wall, which ended the Cold War and East-West rivalries, also played a significant role in the collapse of apartheid.
Less than three months after the wall fell former President FW De Klerk announced the lifting of a state of emergency and the unbanning of the ANC, SA Communist Party and other bodies which paved the way for the release of Nelson Mandela. Both countries had undergone extraordinary revolutions and both countries staked their claim to hosting the biggest single-code sporting event on the planet.
These were issues that no doubt played on the minds of FIFA's executive committee members when they voted in Zurich on July 7, 2000. It was the closest ballot in the governing body's history with one (disputed) vote costing post-apartheid South Africa the rights to host the tournament.
Acknowledging that without the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification a year later the tournament would not have taken place in Germany, the organising committee announced that the 2006 Final Draw would be held in Leipzig, a city in eastern Germany, which was part of the old communist bloc. "We want to demonstrate that the 2006 World Cup is taking place in a different country from the 1974 World Cup," said legendary German player, coach and administrator Franz Beckenbauer.
It marked the start of an extraordinary social revolution that saw the country transformed by one mega sporting event. The 'Germany - Land of Ideas' initiative used the opportunity to improve the economy, attract international investment and produce a safe, profitable and spectacular tournament.
The hosts may not have made it to the final but, at the end of the day, it didn't seem to matter. Images of millions of football-loving supporters, draped in black, red and gold were flashed around the world. Germany, it seemed, had momentarily transcended its troubled legacy and liberated itself.
The bitter controversy over the disputed vote for the rights to host 2006 was now long forgotten. As part of their peace offerings, the victors of that battle pledged to assist South Africa with its preparations for 2010. As a result, some of the world's finest stadium designers, structural engineers, security experts and other authorities set their sites on modifying and improving Germany's 2006 model.
As South Africa, prepares to host the word in just seven months, it would do well to heed the lessons of 2006. As the country continues to grapple with its post-apartheid social problems, it cannot lose sight of the enormous hurdles it has already cleared.
This week, 2010 Organising Committee CEO Danny Jordaan told tourist leaders in London that winning the rights to host the 2010 World Cup might have been a bigger moment than the end of apartheid: "I think it was almost a second liberation for us, it was a huge moment of joy..the second affirmation of the worth of our country."
Either way, the 2010 World Cup presents us with our best chance of creating a model of unification to resolve many of the social problems facing us.
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Urquhart is a former FIFA World Cup Media Officer and the current editor of Project2010.