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Can South Africa keep tapping World Cup spirit?

After successfully hosting this summer's World Cup, the challenge for South Africa's government is to make a serious dent in urban crime, tackle corruption, lessen poverty, and shape South Africa as a model for a continent wracked by economic and political problems.

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In 2007, the US State Department asked me to go to South Africa to meet with leading newspaper editors. With the 2010 World Cup looming, they wanted to hear the experience of an editor who had managed coverage of a major sports event, as I had in Salt Lake City with the 2002 Winter Olympics.

It helped that I had some knowledge of South Africa. I began my journalistic career in that country. Years later, The Christian Science Monitor based me there for six years as its Africa correspondent.

Remarkable improvements

When I visited in 2007, I found a country drastically changed from the one I had known in the days of racial segregation and apartheid, when a white minority basically suppressed the black majority.

White-only government had been supplanted by the black-majority government of the African National Congress. There was upward mobility for black Africans in government, commerce, and journalism.

And then-President Thabo Mbeki was continuing to preach goodwill and partnership between the races, following the model set by his predecessor, Nelson Mandela, who emerged unembittered after 27 years in prison.

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