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updated 3/31/2010 12:21:21 PM ET 2010-03-31T16:21:21

The Ingwenyama Lodge has an Olympic swimming pool, driving range, indoor cricket courts, a gym and two regulation football fields spread across 10 hectares (24 acres).

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The grass on those fields wasn't up to FIFA standards, however. They had to be stripped and re-turfed when Chile chose this eastern South African hotel as its World Cup base.

Ingwenyama also needed a sauna, steam baths, a whirlpool, better fencing — even brighter light bulbs, more sophisticated TVs and spare wardrobes for the players' rooms.

Henk Bredenoord, general manager of the nationwide Status Hotels chain to which Ingwenyama belongs, estimated the upgrade cost at 7 million rand (just under $1 million), and said the Chileans were paying 4 million rand for their stay. But instead of a shortfall, Bredenoord sees opportunity.

"We'll be a better standard resort and better able to compete in the marketplace," he said in an interview in the lodge's lobby, adding that the right to brag about having hosted a World Cup team won't hurt.

"Remember, there's a long-term vision involved," Bredenoord said, calling the World Cup "a catalyst for growth."

Bredenoord could be speaking for all South Africa. The government and private entrepreneurs have spent millions renovating airports and building roads, bus and rail systems, hotels and stadiums for the monthlong tournament. In the short-term, the World Cup is a money-losing proposition, but South Africans are hoping for a payoff in the future.

"We want the post-2010 South Africa to be able to compete in the global economy," said Danny Jordaan, the head of the organizing committee.

Teams of the 2010 World CupYvonne Themba, head of a Johannesburg-based organization that supports small businesses, said for new entrepreneurs in particular, benefiting from the World Cup will be difficult.

FIFA has set tight rules meant to protect the big corporations with which it has partnered, like McDonald's and Coca-Cola. That means fans will find McMeals at the stadiums, not South African favorites like steak and pap — a corn pudding — prepared and sold by locals.

"It is so tightly managed," Themba said. "There are very few opportunities that are lucrative in my view. Because everything is FIFA."

Themba advises South Africans to prepare for after the World Cup. FIFA and its sponsors will be gone and South Africans will have a chance to do business when the stadiums are used for local sports and other events.

Managing stadiums and other infrastructure will be crucial after the World Cup, said Gillian Saunders, who has tracked South Africa's preparations as a strategist for Grant Thornton South Africa, which provides risk analysis, financial and other services.

There have been concerns that some of the new stadiums in smaller cities won't see much use after the World Cup. Even Johannesburg might find it hard to fill the 94,700 seats of Soccer City, which cost 2.2 billion rand (about $300 million), after it hosts the World Cup final.

Other spending, organizers say, included 655 million rand (about $90 million) for helicopters, vehicles and other equipment to help police provide security during the tournament. Long after the World Cup ends, the investment in policing is expected to continue to benefit a country with one of the highest crime rates in the world.

Slideshow: Cape Town calls While crime is a concern, poverty is a greater worry for most South Africans. More than 40 percent of South Africans live below the poverty line set by their government. A quarter of the work force is unemployed.

The infrastructure building boom sparked by the World Cup had already begun to die out when the global recession reached South Africa late last year and even more jobs were shed.

Still, Sibongile Mazibuko, who led World Cup preparations in South Africa's economic hub of Johannesburg, said construction workers gained new skills putting up state-of-the-art stadiums that will put them in a better position when the economy revives. Exposure to football fans from around the world will also build skills and expertise in the tourism industry, she said.

Bredenoord, the hotelier, said while the Chileans are at Ingwenyama, the lodge will be employing four young South African Spanish speakers who took advantage of language instruction for impoverished students offered by a Johannesburg university in the lead-up to the World Cup.

SA Tourism, the state-owned tourism development company, says more than 9.6 million tourists came to South Africa in 2009, and expects the figure to top 10 million this year, much of the increase due to the World Cup. The challenge will be to build on that in 2011 — when there won't be a World Cup — and keep building to reach a goal of 14 million by 2014.

Jabu Mabuza, chairman of SA Tourism's board and chief executive of a national hotel and casino chain, said the key is getting World Cup visitors to return, and bring friends and family.

The World Cup is "the biggest billboard we can ever get," Mabuza said.

Saunders, Grant Thornton's director of strategic solutions, said the World Cup alone won't solve South Africa's economic problems. Grant Thornton estimates that 480,000 fans will come for the World Cup, and Saunders has seen estimates they will contribute less than 1 percent to the country's GDP.

"We still need the 6 to 7 percent growth, and we're not anywhere near that," she said.

Economist Stefan Szymanski and sportswriter Simon Kuper, whose study of the economic impact of big sporting events was published last year as "Soccernomics," question whether hosting a World Cup is the most efficient way of revitalizing an economy, especially in a country like South Africa that had to start from scratch for so much of the infrastructure.

But Mazibuko said much of the new infrastructure was in the pipeline, with work speeded for the World Cup. Because prices can only be expected to rise, getting the new roads early meant they were cheaper, Mazibuko said.

Mazibuko said that because of the nationwide renovation, South Africa can now set its sights on hosting the Olympics.

"I'm of the view that South Africa has the capacity to do it," Mazibuko said. "I really feel that we can only grow."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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