Sports has a unique way of bringing out the best in humans. Beyond the sheer sense of competition, merit and sportsmanship, major events on the world stage seem to bring nations together in some ritualistic bond of community. A common language is shared, no matter the winner. The 2010 FIFA World Cup tournament was no different.

Only six other teams have tasted World Cup victory. Yesterday marked the seventh, as Spain secured a hard-fought victory over the Netherlands to win its first title. And while only 86,000 fans watched the tournament in person in South Africa, over 700 million individuals across the globe tuned in for this final game. All told, tournament hosts predict that some 38 billion will have watched some or all of the games from the first to final rounds. Those numbers alone should give you a sense of that community I mentioned above, and to have it all play out on the stage of a country, a continent, that is mired in poverty and economic blight is all the better.

While many football (“soccer” for you non-fans out there) connoisseurs were disappointed in the sloppy play during yesterday’s finale of Spain versus the Netherlands, kudos should be given to the host country for its flawless execution of the World Cup games.

Not only does the tourney put South Africa on the map, the economic impact will be felt for years. During the 1994 World Cup in the U.S. that finished in Los Angeles, for example, the city collected $624 million in total revenues. To put that into perspective, the Super Bowl that year netted only $183 million. Consider that 80 percent of all sponsorships in Africa are sports-related, and one begins to understand that South Africa, and the larger continent, will see a nice economic shot in the arm.

You can bet that Spain won’t be the only nation celebrating tonight. South Africa and its people should be proud of the tournament they hosted. In one of sport’s grandest events, the nation clearly stepped up and delivered.

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