Masondo satisfied with progress at 2010 stadia

Friday, August 21, 2009

Johannesburg - Johannesburg Mayor Amos Masondo has expressed satisfaction with the progress being made at the city's soccer stadia ahead of next year's FIFA World Cup.

Mayor Masondo, accompanied by his mayoral committee, paid whistle stop visits to several stadia, including those that will be used for training sessions during the tournament.

During the tour, he said he was confident that come next June all will be set for the biggest soccer showpiece in the world.

Soccer City and Ellis Park Stadium are the only two soccer stadia in Johannesburg reserved for the world cup while the revamped Soweto's Orlando Stadium, Dobsonville Athletics stadium and Rand Stadium are among those that will pay a crucial role to accommodate players for training purposes.

Construction at Soccer City is more than 70 percent complete, with work on the 97 000-seater venue expected to be finished by the end of the year.

The original stadium was demolished to make way for a bigger and more modern and appealing facility.

Regarded as among the best, if not the best in Africa, Soccer City has been compared with Wembley Stadium, the greatest in London.

In his latest visit to the stadium, FIFA President Sepp Blatter gave encouraging assessments of the venue adding that the world football governing body was happy with "what we see".

Mr Masondo explained that the emphasis was on building infrastructure that would live to benefit the country beyond 2010.

"It was important that we create quality stadiums that can stand the test of time," he said.

He said from their design, the stadia had to meet the required FIFA standards.

"We hope that when the games are over we will be able to look back and say this is something that will work well for us in the future," Mr Masondo told BuaNews as he spoke of 2010 legacy projects.

The legacy projects, he said, were crucial for South Africa because it is these projects that will benefit ordinary people long before after the final match had been played.

"The interventions that are being made in sport should be able to uplift our people in many ways," said Mr Masondo.

"As I said earlier, this is and an investment that's worth our while because this will add to the momentum of the tournament," he added.

Mayor Masondo said Ellis Park was important for the World Cup and because of the stadium's accessibility.

Situated a stones-throw away from the city centre, Ellis Park will host one of the semi-finals of the World Cup and the venue's capacity had been upgraded by another 10 000 to create a total of 70 000 seats.

New upper tiers have been added behind each of the goals. Even the usually critical foreign journalists, had something positive to say about stadium during the recent Confederations Cup.

Ellis Park Stadium Chief Executive Officer Paul Appalsamy said all the upgrade work on the venue had been done within budget. "The project had been very intense; we had to look on the whole issue of infrastructure upgrade in order to meet the legacy requirements," he said.

"We had to address the fact that you needed a space around the stadium because Ellis Park is a very dense area, so there was a lot of work involved," he added.

The Doornfontein and Ellis Park railway stations are upgraded while 20 metre-wide subway at the Ellis Park Station is under construction at a cost of over R26 million, and form part of the legacy projects Mr Masondo referred to.