impressed as visitors flock to SA

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Johannesburg - Organisers of this year's FIFA World Cup have described the latest figures pointing to an increase in the number of people visiting South Africa since the beginning of the month as encouraging.

This comes as immigration authorities announced on Tuesday that more than 450 000 foreign visitors have visited South Africa since the beginning of June. Home Affairs Deputy Minister Malusi Gigaba said 456 423 people who arrived between 1 and 13 June identified themselves as having come for the World Cup.

Now organisers believe more are still to come as the tournament gets more exciting.

Local Organising Committee spokesperson Rich Mkhondo on Wednesday said the figures were encouraging considering that the event was only on its 6th day. "Its very exciting for us considering that the number has passed our expectations and we are hoping that more people will be coming to the country to watch the event," Mkhondo said.

In the build up to the World Cup, organisers estimated the number of people who were likely to visit the country to half a million. But as fears that the recession could discourage most people from traveling, the number drastically dropped to just 300 000.

Mkhondo said many people had probably realised that all the "things" that were said about South Africa including fears about crime were probably exaggerated. "All we can say now, this is good for the country, it just says a lot about the tournament and the organisation thereof," he said.

FIFA also released the latest Television viewership figures which point to an overall increase in the number of people watching the tournament globally. FIFA spokesperson Nicolas Maingot said the match between the Netherlands and Denmark attracted more than 90 percent TV viewers in the respective countries. Three quarters of people in Japan were glued to their screens to watch the match between their team and Brazil.

"This figure is more than double that achieved in a match between Japan and Brazil in 2002," he said.

Meanwhile, it has also emerged that FIFA had filed criminal charges against a company accused of ambush marketing at soccer city during the match between the Netherlands and Denmark.

The company, which cannot be named, had apparently used certain women in the stadium to market its products. Maingot said no criminal charges had been brought against the women.

FIFA, which is involved multi-billion rand contracts with several partners, regards ambush marketing as a serious offence. Such practices are also illegal in South Africa.