World Cup: 500 days and counting

26 January 2008

The world is watching in anticipation as stadiums go up, roads and highways are built or upgraded, and a country once faced with overwhelming odds draws closer to hosting the biggest sporting spectacle on the planet.

In exactly 500 days, about three billion eyes will watch in anticipation as the coveted event touches down in Africa for the first time in history.

While such a spectacle will always draw its sceptics and share of pessimists, it is the responsibility of the public, private and business sectors, as well as the public at large, to cast aside blanket views of failure for the country.

One of the most positive spin-offs for the country will be the massive influx of foreigners destined for South Africa’s sunny shores, and the investment they will bring with them.

Among those industries set to boom in a massive way over at least the next five years are the hotel, tourism, transport, restaurant and catering industries and, of course, what is referred to as South Africa’s “second economy” – small-scale entrepreneurs and artisans.

South Africa’s challenges include ensuring that public transport is efficient, that tourists and South Africans are safe – and that World Cup matches kick off without hindrance.

Local Organising Committee (LOC) Chief Executive Officer Danny Jordaan maintains that preparations are coming along well, with the stadiums between 60% and 90% complete already.

The government’s 2010 unit said on Sunday that Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban is sitting at 69% complete, Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane at 55% complete, Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg at 64% complete and Cape Town’s Green Point Stadium at 38% complete.

Nelspruit’s Mbombela Stadium is currently about 61% complete, with Port Elizabeth’s Nelson Mandela Stadium slightly further along at 70% completion.

Airport infrastructure, another vital part of ensuring a smooth and co-ordinated event, is also up to speed, with upgrades taking place at OR Tambo International, Cape Town and Durban International Airports as well as the building of La Mercy Airport.

The South African government has made more than R31-billion available to support preparations for the tournament, and these funds are being spent to deliver on the 17 guarantees the government made to Fifa.

Jordaan said the World Cup alone would create about 450 000 jobs, helping to alleviate poverty and stimulate the local economy at a time when much of the developed world heads into economic recession.

The government’s 2010 unit reports that the Department of Minerals and Energy has allocated more than R136-million to the nine host cities for upgrading their electricity networks.

“All upgrades will be completed in the 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup host cities and other 2010 Fifa World Cup host cities by April/May 2009,” the unit says.

As a Fifa requirement, all stadiums being used during the World Cup have to run primarily off generators, with grid electricity as a secondary power source. All generators will arrive February 2009 and be installed and commissioned by March.

Accommodation and the number of available rooms, as specified by Fifa-appointed hospitality and accommodation company MATCH, is a concern to the organisers, but plans are in place and thousands of non-hotel rooms are being graded for the World Cup.

“To date, more than 4 673 non-hotel rooms and 25 602 hotel rooms have been signed up, and the grading process continues,” the government reports. “Base camp hotels have now been identified by MATCH and are waiting final approval from Fifa.”

Although South Africa is only 500 days from hosting the most watched sporting event on the planet, the 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup, featuring the six continental giants, the current world champions and the World Cup host nation, is a mere four and a half months away, with palpable excitement growing.

Source: BuaNews