Alastair Cameron on one of many bus trips to World Cup football matches in South Africa.

Beyond the vuvuzelas of the World Cup: an operations report from South Africa.

by Bob Page on 26 June 2010

A systematic approach to watching football in South Africa boils down to airplanes, buses, hydration and comfortable walking shoes. Alastair Cameron, an operations expert in global sporting events, provides an update from the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Alastair operates Global Nomad, a sports marketing consultancy, and has supported four editions of the Olympic Games: Sydney, Athens, Beijing and Vancouver. An Australian, Alastair’s portfolio also includes the Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch Relay, two Commonwealth Games (Manchester and Melbourne), the Sydney Paralympic Games and the Doha 2006 Asian Games. He last reported for The Mercury Brief from Vancouver.

Q1. What is your role in South Africa?

My role is Match Day Experience Manager, working with a USA-based agency handling arrangements for various sponsors. I am here for six weeks. Based in Cape Town, we fly to matches all over South Africa. The agency primarily supports the Olympic Games, but supports other global events as well.

Our day typically begins around 5 a.m. when we meet at the hotel, gather our guests and head to the Cape Town airport. There we board our flight, often to Johannesburg some two hours away. There we are met by our ground transport supplier and transported to the pre-match hospitality venue where the guests can relax for an hour or two and have lunch and refreshments. However, sometimes the drive between the destination airport and the stadium can be up to four hours. Then we head to the stadium. We attend the match and then reverse the process, skipping the hospitality portion. We often return to Cape Town in the wee hours of the morning, sometimes 22 hours after we first started.

My role is to manage all aspects of the day, working with the suppliers, coordinating with our locally based venue staff in each city, any airport teams we have in place, the airlines we fly with, and the hospitality providers. My number one objective is making sure the guests have an enjoyable and safe day, returning back to Cape Town with me.

Q2. World Cup football is being played in 10 stadiums in South Africa. As people around the world watch these matches, what should they know about the unique logistics of the tournament?

Several sponsors have opted for a Base Camp model to manage their operations because it is not practical to have hotels and teams in 10 cities. So the distances we cover in a day are challenging. At least five of the stadiums require us to fly into Johannesburg and then bus to them. Four others we fly directly into. And we can actually walk to the stadium in Cape Town. One of our key concerns is always guest safety, so this is a great way, and a great city, for us to operate in. We know where all our people are all the time.

Q3. From your position on the ground, how does the FIFA World Cup feel different as an event than, for example, an edition of the Olympic Games?

The vibe here is fabulous. Like an Olympic Games, people are from all over. The South Africans are very warm and welcoming. The noise from the vuvuzelas, the loud South African horns you hear in the background as a constant drone, has even grown on me. The big difference is that this is a single sport event, so if you are not a huge football fan, you may be out of luck. Whilst I have never been an avid football fan, I have always watched World Cup matches over the years. There are more similarities than differences.

Q4. What events so far have stood out for you in this World Cup experience, and what are you looking forward to?

I was at the Opening Ceremony and Match 1, South Africa vs. Mexico. The local fans were very much in evidence, but so were many Mexican fans. I am also looking forward to Match 64, the final, when we will be back in Jo’burg. Attending one of Australia’s matches, the draw between us and Ghana, was also exciting. It was terrific to be amongst so many of my countrymen in a distant land supporting our team, although, sadly, they did not make the second round.

Q5. What Cape Town bar has been taken over by insiders managing the operations of the World Cup?

I have not had a lot of chance to hit many bars. But here in Cape Town we are based in the Waterfront area, where Ferryman’s is popular, as is Quay Four. There have been a number of temporary structures built in this area as well. Also, in Cape Town you have Long Street in the center of town, where there are some great bars in big, old colonial buildings with great verandahs looking over the street below. A few miles away is Camp’s Bay out along the coast where there are some good bars too.

Above, Alastair on one of many bus trips to a World Cup football match in South Africa.

South Africa

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