SA on track to host memorable 2010 ahead of 200-day milestone

Friday, November 20, 2009

With just over 200 days to go before the kick-off of the world's biggest soccer event to hit African soil, there is no question that the country is ready to host a spectacular and memorable extravaganza.

When Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe launched Football Friday in October, he reiterated government's commitment to hosting a successful World Cup.

South Africans from all walks of life are also gearing up to becoming the centre of attention, showcasing the country's diversity and talent and magnificent tourist attractions.

A total number of 682 943 tickets have been sold thus far. Of these tickets, 358 416, or 52.5 percent, have been obtained by South Africans as of 30 October 2009, according to the Local Organising Committee.

According to Rich Mkhondo, the Organising Committee's Chief Communications Officer, all stadiums being used for the World Cup are set for completion by the end of this year.

He said four venues, namely Ellis Park, Free State Stadium, Loftus Versfeld and the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, were used during the FIFA Confederations Cup earlier this year, showcasing the country's ability to pull off a world class event.

Mkhondo said the first newly-built stadium completed was Nelson Mandela Bay, which was finished in June 2009 and has already hosted a number of matches including the exhilarating Bafana Bafana versus Japan match.

Durban's Moses Mabhida Stadium will host its first match on 29 November between Amazulu and Maritzburg United. Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane is complete, as is Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit. Soccer City in Johannesburg and Green Point in Cape Town are due for completion by the end of December 2009.

He added that a dry run of all services in all stadiums would be done by the host cities through the test matches.

"About 26 billion people watched the FIFA World Cup that took place in Germany in 2006 and the number is expected to at least emulate that in 2010.

"Our stadiums are significantly different from the other World Cup stadiums. Not only from the designs, but also from their locations," said Mkhondo.

The Cape Town stadium, he said, has a great location with Robben Island ahead and Table Mountain behind the stadium. Durban also has a great design with the motor arch that goes across the stadium. Spectators will be able to move from one side of the stadium.

Soccer City in Johannesburg is designed to look like the African Calabash with 94 700 seating and Mbombela in Nelspruit has a great design with African giraffes holding up the stadium, with zebra design on the seating.

South Africa is definitely no stranger to hosting world class events. The country has hosted several global gatherings successfully, including the Rugby World Cup in 1995, the African Cup of Nations in 1996, the Cricket World Cup in 2003 and most recently the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup.

Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe recently assured soccer teams and international visitors of their safety during their stay in the country. He further reiterated that government was doing all it could to fight crime.

"The South African Police Force (SAPF) is spending R640 million on the deployment of 41 000 officers specifically for the event. This includes 31 000 permanent members and 10 000 police reservists.

"There will be a total of 54 dedicated courts spread across the country to expeditiously deal with criminal matters that relate to the tournament," said Mkhondo.

He said the introduction of Advance Passenger Processing in partnership with the airlines and the deployment of Immigration Liaison Officers at key international airports will ensure ease of access in and out of the country.

Furthermore, South Africa will have dedicated 2010 police stations within close proximity to each of the stadiums, as well as dedicated crime-investigation teams and special courts to investigate and deal with all event-related crimes 24/7.

A 24-hour multilingual hotline will also assist visitors requiring police or medical services. The Regional (SADC) Security Plan has been finalised and cooperation with several countries has been initiated. Border security and sea and air security strategies are in place. South Africa submitted the comprehensive security plan for the 2010 World Cup to FIFA on 30 June 2008.