South Africa is on the ball

2010 WORLD CUP: South Africa is on the ball

Eze, Mercy

Since winning the prestigious, yet challenging mandate to host the 2010 Fifa World Cup, South Africa has been weathering a storm of cynical international media scepticism and downright misrepresentation regarding its preparations for the event. But as Mercy Eze reports, the true image is rosier.

On 21 May 2004, Africa rose gallantly to celebrate its maiden opportunity to host the finals of the football World Cup for the first time in the 80-year history of the tournament. This was not just an honour for South Africa (the country given the hosting rights), but the entire continent. But since then, Doubting Thomases have been in full voice questioning how ready South Africa and indeed Africa are, in hosting the prestigious event.

Apart from promoting partnership with the entire world, the 2010 World Cup is expected to attract multibillion-dollar investments for South Africa and the continent. But with barely three years to go, there are concerns about the uncompleted projects which are vital for the tournament, even though Fife did approve a budget of US$42,025,483 for the projects to run from October last year to September this year. An additional $23,680,881 has been approved to cover the rest of 2007.

It was to allay the fears of the sceptics that Fife and South Africa invited the world media, diplomats, corporate entities and businesses to a briefing at the South Africa embassy in London, to hear the truth from the horses mouth.

Danny Jordaan, the CEO of the 2010 World Cup Organising Committee, opened the proceedings by telling the august assembly: “There have been widely-held doubts and speculations about the South Africa preparedness to host the event, especially in the areas of infrastructure and other resources. We are here to clarify these issues.”

He said the South Africa government had been working closely with the African Union (AU), the Confederation of African Football and Fifa to ensure success. In addition, at its summit in January this year, the AU formally placed “South Africa 2010” on top of its agenda, creating a special platform – “the African legacy”, aimed at giving 2010 a continental push.

After the briefing, Jordaan gave an exclusive interview to New African to shed more light on the preparations. Here are excerpts:

Mercy Eze: There has been high speculation about the accommodation issue. Is South Africa going to share the responsibility with neighbouring countries?

Jordaan: Well, initially, housing, education and an integrated development strategy was put forward by the soccer world decision-makers as one of the key criteria which South Africa has to qualify for hosting the 2010 World Cup.

When we finally got the hosting rights, we tried not to monopolise the whole event. 2010 is for the whole of Africa; therefore, vk are engaging all our neighbours, Mozambique, for instance, so that some of die teams will be accommodated in neighbouring countries. As for the visitors, they have the choice of staying where they want. A total of 24 countries are participating in the 2010 World Cup. And over two million visitors are expected in the country for the event.

In addition, a total of 300 world journalists are expected. Already, 95% of the broadcast rights have been sold. This is a demonstration of our commitment to the mandate.

Eze: What level of co-operation do you enjoy from “stop-over” countries in terms of “transit visa” arrangements for football fans coming to the event?

Jordaan: We are working with the related embassies and hope diey will definitely cooperate. We prefer a situation where there will be “specials” for smooth passage for Africans travelling to South Africa irrespective of their geographical location within the continent. The importance of football fans at occasions like this is invaluable. That is why South Africa 2010 has outlined plans for a “Fanfest” for the spectators coming to the event. For the first time, non-ticket holders can participate in the Fanfest which aims to celebrate the peoples of the world.

Eze: Germany 2006, a huge success overall, was marred by a ticket racketeering scandal. Some FUa officials were even involved. Has the Local Organising Committee in South Africa put in place measures to avoid a repeat of this ugly incident?

Jordaan: There’s no pretence about the shame diat came with the ticket fraud in Germany. It was an unfortunate thing; and we are not taking any chances! Fife, as the world football governing body, has consistently warned all and sundry about ticket racketeering. The South Africa 2010 organising committee will do all we can to avoid a repeat of the ugly incidents in Germany.

Eze: Hosting the 2010 event is very demanding as health, safety and security systems have to match the expected huge influx of fans. Is the organising committee considering a mini court system to deal promptly with breaches of law and order rather than cramping such law-breakers in South African jails?

Jordaan: We believe in a justice system that can respond to the breaking of law and order. We are talking about over two million people who will be scattered across the nine hosting cities. The government is giving us strong backing with regards to security measures. We hope everything is going to be fine.

Eze: Finally, are you going to give more briefings from time to time to update the world on your preparations?

Jordaan: That is a very good point you have raised. Yes, the world has to be updated from rime to time about this big event. Moreover, the projected 26.4 billion viewers likely to watch the World Cup finals cannot be left at the mercy of speculations.

Copyright International Communications Oct 2007

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