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Who Runs the World Cup? Part One.

Posted By Brian Phillips On November 12, 2007 @ 5:02 am In Uncategorized | No Comments

Tim Modise, the communications director for the 2010 World Cup, has been visiting London and has given the press an update about South Africa’s preparations for the tournament. It’s the usual smattering of concern over construction delays and reassurance about crime. But I’m always curious about the people who play important roles for the World Cup organizing committee, and reading about Tim Modise made me wonder: what sort of person could wake up one morning and find himself the top media liaison for South Africa’s iteration of the biggest sporting event in the world?

The answer, unsurprisingly, is: a South African media personality. Tim Modise is a popular radio host and columnist who also appears on television. He has connections in politics and was the master of ceremonies at Nelson Mandela’s 85th birthday party. He’s enough of a celebrity in South Africa that his dispute with his wife’s parents over the custody of his children was a news story there several years ago. (His wife, from whom he was separated, was killed in a car accident.) He’s won a number of awards in South Africa and appears to be highly respected. And yet, the world being bewildering, you can hire him as a “celebrity MC”.

Since becoming communications director for the World Cup last year, Modise seems to have devoted a great deal of effort to preventing the press coverage of the tournament from becoming too negative. He has decried what he perceives as “afro-pessimism” from the international media. Shortly after taking the job, however, he published a not-terribly-reassuring editorial called “2010 Will Be a Success”, in which the topic headings were “Things are looking up” and “It’s not as bad as it seems”.

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