The World Cup's bittersweet draught

Nelson Mandela worked hard to bring the World Cup to South Africa. But he didn’t attend the opening game, as was highly anticipated. Instead, he stayed at home mourning the death of his granddaughter, Zenani, who was killed by a car allegedly driven by a drunken driver on the eve of the opening game.

Jets fly over the opening ceremony of the 2010 FIFA World Cup at Soccer City in Johannesburg. It was a happy occasion, to be sure, but not for one South African icon. Creative commons licensed photo by Flickr user Shine 2010 – 2010 World Cup good news.

Heavy drinking and certain sports seem inextricably linked around the world. In my home town of Washington, D.C., the local government agreed to let bars open at 7 a.m. for early games, though you can’t get a drink until 8 a.m. weekdays and Saturdays, and 10 a.m. Sundays. Curious, I asked the college-age assistants in my office: “Is it essential to drink while watching the World Cup?” The chorus of replies was, “Yes, essential.”

As the World Cup games proceed, bars around the world, not just South Africa’s bars and shebeens, will be far busier than usual. And there will be far more drunk drivers on the roads. Sports rivalry and risk-taking seem to go hand in hand: risky games, risky drinking, risky driving, risky sex and who knows what else.

The thrill of it all. For many. But not for everyone.

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