This month, the world's attention is focused on South Africa, the first African nation to host the football World Cup.
The government has spent billions of pounds preparing for it, but the decision to host the tournament has caused controversy.
Supporters point to the jobs, investment, revenues and prestige that are supposed to follow, while opponents say that such vast sums of money would be better spent addressing chronic poverty.
Certainly the need to address the legacy of apartheid and unfulfilled promises of social change and economic opportunity is becoming ever more urgent.
South Africa remains one of the most unequal societies in the world with nearly half the population living on less than $2 a day.
Free market policies have pushed down wages, decimated the industrial sector and opened the country to the financial crisis.
Officially a quarter of the population is unemployed, although in reality the figure is closer to 35 per cent, with many of the "working poor" forced to eke out a living in the informal economy.
One of the biggest problems is a lack of decent, affordable housing.
The government has promised new homes to millions of South Africans, but only a fraction of those have been provided one and some people have spent more than 20 years on the housing list.
To relieve the pressure, the government has built hundreds of Temporary Relocation Areas, or transit camps. Many are crowded, poorly constructed and seen by residents as even worse than the shack settlements.
The majority of camps are isolated from cities, making it difficult to earn a living. In some camps the cost of travelling to the city market can equal a day's wages.
People have to leave behind vital community-based organisations like schools and creches. Even the name is misleading, as some have already lived in the "temporary" camps for several years.
Ironically, some of the pressures on poor people have been accelerated by the World Cup, meant to be the great showcase of the new South Africa.
War on Want partner the Anti-Eviction Campaign has exposed how the South African authorities' determination to promote the tournament has translated into forcible clearing of shacks and street vendors near stadiums and on key highways.
Thousands have already been cleared from their homes, while traders who hoped to share some of the tourists' dollars have been barred from "tax-free bubbles" covering stadia, media centres and public viewing sites.
Similarly, another War on Want partner, the Anti-Privatisation Forum, has resisted the drive to hive off basic services for the last 10 years.
It is even more galling that the World Cup - this symbolic and well-needed moment to bring people together - has been turned into another corporate jamboree.
Despite enormous sums spent by the government, the tournament has been marked by Fifa's iron grip over all aspects of the games, from who is allowed to sell souvenirs outside the grounds to the kind of grass inside.
Though Fifa reported $3.2 billion profits even by April, it is highly uncertain how much will actually trickle down to those that need it most, especially with its tax exemptions.
The South African trade union congress COSATU has demanded that the terms of agreement they have with the South African government be renegotiated as "Fifa clearly cannot be trusted to act in good faith in the interests of South Africa."
In South Africa, the struggles of War on Want's partners have already won victories.
The AEC has forced the suspension of displacing 10,000 people from the Joe Slovo settlement to "clean up" the road from Cape Town airport. And the APF defeated water meters imposed by Johannesburg council.
In October another partner, the shack dwellers' movement Abahlali baseMjondolo, led a successful campaign to overturn the KwaZulu Slums Act.
Britain should take note too. The 2012 London Olympics has also been peddled as a shot in the arm to deprived east London communities that will bring economic opportunities, better travel, sporting infrastructure and new housing. Will it deliver?
It seems unlikely until we really take the long-term impact of megasporting events as seriously as the spectacle.
Dave Tucker is the War on Want trade campaigns officer. War on Want holds a London public meeting on Thursday night - entitled Who's Going to Win the World Cup? - featuring a range of speakers. It will take place from 7.00-9.30 pm at Toynbee Hall, 28 Commercial Street, Aldgate. For more details, visit www.waronwant.org