Fifa upbeat after 2010 stadiums tour

14 October 2008

Officials from world football authority Fifa and the 2010 local organising committee (LOC) have concluded a 10-day inspection tour of South Africa’s 10 World Cup stadiums, praising the general construction status.

Experts from Fifa and the LOC represented various areas, ranging from stadium technical teams to security, competitions, hospitality, ticketing, media, marketing, TV and IT.

“Overall we are happy with what we have seen in the facilities,” Fifa South Africa office head Ron DelMont said in a statement by the LOC last week. “Very encouraging progress has been made in particular at the six new stadiums since the last visits. They will be amazing football jewels in 2010.

“The great engagement from the cities proves that we are on the right track.”

Also part of the inspection party was LOC acting chief compliance officer Derek Blanckensee, who said it was heartening not only to see the tremendous construction progress, but also the level of planning in and around the stadiums.

“We examined in great detail the functional use of all the spaces and access routes of all the constituent groups involved in a Fifa World Cup, and there was a great correlation between what Fifa expected and what the cities’ various technical experts have provided,” he said.

Challenges

Some challenges were identified, however, particularly concerning the refurbishments in Pretoria and Bloemfontein, both venues for next year’s Fifa Confederations Cup, which kicks off in less than nine months.

The issues lay mainly in the interpretation of the Fifa infrastructural requirements, which have been addressed in the operational meetings with the cities. There is still much work to do, but the delegation is optimistic that the necessary solutions will be found and implemented in time to put on a world-class event next year.

The two other Fifa Confederations Cup venues, Ellis Park in Johannesburg and Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Rustenburg, were well on track to meet Fifa requirements and deadlines.

‘African calabash’

During the inspection the group also witnessed a milestone at Soccer City, to the south of Johannesburg, as the first panels of the iconic African calabash – which will wrap around the stadium – were placed on the outside of the venue hosting the world cup opening match and final.

Fifa consultant Horst Schmidt, a former organiser of the 1974 and 2006 World Cups and part of the inspection party in Polokwane and Johannesburg, heaped lavish praise on Soccer City.

“I think that Soccer City is one of the most exciting sites I’ve ever seen in my sporting life,” he said. “Vigilant attention to every detail is now required in all host cities, and all stakeholders now clearly need to understand their roles to deliver memorable finished products across all venues.”

Stadium progress

All the new stadia under construction made a great impression on the inspection tour group, with Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium well on course to becoming the first new World Cup stadium to be completed.

Over 90% of the stadium’s construction work is already complete, with over 20 000 seats installed. The Durban Stadium is another which captured the imagination, with its far advanced construction work and breathtaking arch, already a feature of the Durban’s skyline.

Cape Town’s Greenpoint Stadium has made even more significant progress only three weeks since Fifa President Sepp Blatter paid tribute to its progress, with Polokwane’s Peter Mokaba Stadium and Nelspruit’s Mbombela Stadium also well placed to meet its Fifa deadlines.

Around the time of the upcoming Confederations Cup draw on 22 November 2008, various other international constituents will be visiting the four venues for the tournament, dubbed “The Festival of Champions”. Among them will be the world’s major news agencies, as well as the commercial affiliates who want to get a first look at the venues.

SAinfo reporter

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