2010 rip-off

As Sepp Blatter finally told the world that there was no plan B and that there was no way that 2010 World Cup would be held anywhere except South Africa (again), I was out and about, trying my best to fulfil his wish that South Africa must get more involved in and more enthusiastic over the event, now just days away, (albeit 542 of them).

Ever since the 2010 Mascot – a cuddly green-haired leopard called Zakumi, was revealed to the world – I have been trying to find some 2010 merchandise with him on for my young son. And it’s been harder than you might imagine. Official outlets are few and far between and even when you find one, they rarely stock children’s stuff. Good plan, guys. That’s great thinking right there. Nice work.


Zakumi

Today, I finally found what I was looking for. A t-shirt for a 3-4 year old with a picture of Zakumi on.
Yours for just… R190. (£12.70, $19, Zim$168,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000).

To me, credit crunch, global financial crisis or whatever, that is an obscene amount of money for a toddler’s t-shirt. Now, I’m not stupid*. I know that as soon as something has a logo on it, the price goes daft. But even Naartjie, South Africa’s premium over-priced kids clothing store can’t match that for a kids t-shirt.  When that happens, you know it’s stupid money time.

As with any event where there is money to be made, I expect to see plenty of knock-offs in the lead up to the tournament. And while I certainly don’t advocate buying fake merchandise, one has to say to FIFA – if you don’t want a black market, don’t create one with outrageous prices like that (you greedy bastards).

* Hush. And stop thinking that.

Learning the hard way

“Ooh!” “Ha ha!” “ROOOOOOOOOAR!”

It’s been a “fun” morning.
You know – “fun”? Like going to a local shopping mall with hopelessly inadequate parking 12 days before christmas. “Fun”. 
Yet, desperate to get into the festive spirit, despite the temperature outside being in excess of 30°C, we had headed out in search of a christmas tree. We chose to go artificial this year. Not ideal, but when you consider the utterly appalling range of twigs and mangled branches which claim to be the genuine article, together with their propensity to shed razor sharp needles all over the floor after being in one’s house for more than an hour, not really a tough decision.
Better then to go with the neatly boxed plastic version with integral fairy lights and needle-free-carpet guarantee.

“Ooh!” “Ha ha!” “ROOOOOOOOOAR!”

Game at the Kenilworth Centre was suitably over-priced, under-stocked and chock full of clueless employees being unhelpful and impolite customers binging their 0.5% interest rate reduction away. Thanks for that, Tito
While the season and the weather here may be rather different from back home, it’s nice to recognise some of the christmas traditions have made it safely over. We went for the 6′ (180cm) version – anything else just looks foolishly small – threw it in the trolley with a bit of tinsel and some baby food and set off on the 3 mile trek back to the car, which was parked 3 miles away.

 “Ooh!” “Ha ha!” “ROOOOOOOOOAR!”

Feeling slightly weak after the ordeal of fighting our way through a billion (apparently blind) shoppers and inhaling lungfulls of car fumes during the return expedition through the parking lot, the wife suggested a stop at the McDonald’s across the road for suitable sustenance. Namely a chocolate milkshake for her, a really unhealthy burger for me, a Happy Meal for the boy and absolutely bugger all for the baby (we’re still trying to wean her off chicken mcnuggets).
And here, after all those other hard-learnt lessons about fir trees, Kenilworth Centre’s parking problems, foolish times of the year to go shopping and so on, is where I learnt the hardest lesson of all.  
“Ooh!” “Ha ha!” “ROOOOOOOOOAR!”  “Ooh!” “Ha ha!” “ROOOOOOOOOAR!”

McDonald’s Happy Meal toys now make noises. Did they ever do that before?
Sure, some of them moved and stuff, but Alex the Lion from Madagascar 2 – Escape to Africa (I tried it, it’s not too bad, but avoid Jo’burg) goes  “Ooh!” “Ha ha!” “ROOOOOOOOOAR!” every time you shake go within 10 feet of him. My little Alex is delighted that, although his chesseburger wasn’t up to much, his small leonine namesake makes a noise. Repeatedly. An  “Ooh!” “Ha ha!” “ROOOOOOOOOAR!” noise. 

Alex the Boy has gone for his midday nap now. Alex the Lion is still “Ooh!” “Ha ha!” “ROOOOOOOOOAR!”ing despite currently residing at the bottom of the swimming pool. 
Yep, you can say what you like about the Chinese, but when it comes to making annoyingly resilient cheap plastic crap, there’s no-one that comes close.

EDIT: And in reponse to this, these (with more at flickr):

        

Ops and Balls

Sorry. I haven’t updated in quite a while. Life in Cape Town has been more than a little hectic and I haven’t always even been in Cape Town. In fact, last weekend, I wasn’t in Cape Town at all. We were off visiting friends outside Stanford, where the air is fresh, the fynbos is fyn and the beer flows all day long. Views were admired, dams were swum in and beer flowed all day long*. 7 adults, six kids (aged 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and 3 months). Chaos.
Photos or it didn’t happen? Your proof is here.

And this madness seems set to continue.
This weekend we’re off to a tonsil and then on Monday, my little boy is having his balls removed. 

Hmm. Sorry. Hang on a minute. That’s not quite right. 

Obviously, that should read:
“This weekend we’re off to a ball and then on Monday, my little boy is having his tonsils removed.” 
Short interlude while I phone the surgeon and check that we’ve got our ducks in a row…
OK. Sorted.

The ball is no less than the rather exclusive (although apparently they’re going to let me in) Fancourt Ball, hosted this year by Sabine Plattner and “Tannie” Evita Bezuidenhout. Black ties and big names aplenty.
We’ll be making our way out along the Southern Cape coast (although not as far as the sleepy village of Port Elizabeth) on Friday and then partying up a storm on Saturday evening before a return on Sunday.   

 
Say Aah! (Say Eww!)

And then – in an effort to stem the seemingly constant streams of snot from the seemingly continual respiratory and ear infections, as suffered by my little lad – surgery! Desperate times call for desperate measures and a full on tonsillectomy with free** adenoidectomy thrown in seems just about desperate enough. While the global markets may be crashing down around us, shares in private medical care and jelly and ice cream manufacture seem to be a safe option right now. At least for the next week, anyway.

Of course, all of the above assumes that I’m actually going to make it as far as this weekend, which may not necessarily be the case.  

In other news, the word on the street (actually, the word via sms), is that The Ad Wizard and Mrs Ad Wizard are expecting a Baby Ad Wizard. This is wonderful news for them, rather surprising news for those of us who know The Ad Wizard and possibly quite worrying news for the rest of the world. But congrats anyway, guys.

* I may already have mentioned that bit.
** “free” – ja right!

The 2010 story no one tells

I was delighted to read Luke Alfred’s inspired and inspiring piece on the South African media’s view of the 2010 World Cup in yesterday’s Sunday Times, not least because it neatly sums up a lot of stuff that I’ve been moaning about for ages.

You may have noticed that when it comes to the 2010 Soccer World Cup there is an endlessly circulating merry-go-round of stories, each with its own shape and unique place in the system.
There is the tryingly familiar “stadium budget” story with quotes by ex-deputy minister of finance Jabu Moleketi; there is the “Sepp Blatter mildly reprimands the organising committee” story, and the grotesquely amusing “plan B” story with its many denials.

Interestingly, I note that we are not the only ones to suffer with these stories. The plans for Euro 2012 tournament, to be jointly hosted by Poland and Ukraine are plagued with the same issues; who could forget that construction for the Athens 2004 Olympics was miles behind schedule (which we’re not) and they still managed to stage a thoroughly successful event? But it’s one of the duties of the world’s press to find the worst in everything and to sensationalise minor events in order to make mountains out of molehills and sell newspapers. And it’s something that the South African press are especially good at.


Soccer City, Soweto

With sport to some extent replacing nationalism (or being one of the ways in which the nation expresses itself in these post-nationalistic times) the stadiums for the World Cup will express the best of what South Africa has to offer as the century progresses.

They’ll become monuments by which the world recognises this country and by which we define ourselves.
In this sense, debates about what they will cost and how they will be used are profoundly beside the point. Despite the threadbare narratives of the present, stories of striking workers and an underachieving national side, the World Cup will be a pivotal event in the history of post-apartheid South Africa, a time that future generations will look back on with justifiable pride.

So besotted are we with the present that we can’t see it now, but over the long arc of time our children will look back on 2010 and tell their children “I was there”.

Alfred makes a good point, but no-one’s listening. There’s more to life than the present, no matter how tough times may be for many in SA right now. One of the major benefits of 2010, aside from the immediately obvious tourism and sponsorship revenue and its spin-offs is a shared national experience which will generate pride in the country. Our kids have yet to be tainted with the negativity running deep in the veins of the South African media and its followers. And it’s the children’s reaction as they view things with that objective innocence which will be the true marker of the success of the 2010 tournament.

It’s my intention to expose my son to as much of the atmosphere and spectacle as I possibly can.
He’ll be 4 years old and just beginning to form his first “proper” memories and I can think of no better time, place or event for him to remember. It’s going to be an amazing experience. Looking back to my own football-dominated childhood, I can only dream about having experienced a World Cup on my doorstep. (Yes, I was born well after 1966, thank you very much!)

Down the line, my son and I will watch rugby, football, concerts and gladiatorial events possibly involving tigers and pointy sticks at the Green Point Stadium. And while each event will be special in some way, the memories of 2010 that they trigger may never be matched.  

Live webcam feeds of Cape Town stadium site

 

One World, One Dream

Yesterday, I watched the Olympic Games opening ceremony along with 2,999,999,999 others. Not all in my lounge, obviously; that would have been a squash and a squeeze.
Anyway, it was fairly impressive stuff. Lots of flashy lights, a myriad of people running about in unison, a few people in weird costumes, some people attached to wires which made it look a bit like they were flying if you ignored the wires and so on. Oh, and some fireworks.


Attention!

So obviously very different from every other opening ceremony for a big sporting event. Right.

What was different about Beijing 2008’s opening night was the fact that it cost (according to the SABC’s coverage, anyway) about $75m (US) to stage. Which made me wonder how exactly it adhered to the One World, One Dream motto of this particular Olympiad. Kevin Mitchell sums it up nicely:

This opening of the 29th Olympic Games was an orchestrated marriage of superstition and military precision on a scale only a one-party state could deliver with such confidence. It was a show not so much riveting because of its artistic merit (which was considerable) but the self-conscious reaching for grandeur that has become the Olympic movement’s parodic symbol of excess.

And the official Beijing 2008 site states:

“One World One Dream” fully reflects the essence and the universal values of the Olympic spirit – Unity, Friendship, Progress, Harmony, Participation and Dream. It expresses the common wishes of people all over the world, inspired by the Olympic ideals, to strive for a bright future of Mankind.

While I’m all for the Olympics and their ideals – though I recognise that they are very rarely seen outside the couple of weeks of competition every four years – I would imagine that a large chunk of the world’s population would probably have different universal values. Like Food, Shelter, Housing and Safety, for example. Ironically, I would also guess that most of this group were the ones who weren’t able to watch yesterday.
This “Other World” doesn’t fit for the Beijing Olympics though; it’s ugly and awkward to deal with while they’re splashing out millions on fancy fireworks and Sarah Brightman. And so, like so much else, it is being swept under the carpet and conveniently ignored for the next two weeks.