24 December 2008
What a long, strange year it has been. South Africa’s preparations for the 2010 Fifa World Cup have been marked by extraordinary highs and lows.
Nobody said it was going to be easy, and for South Africa, gearing to host the biggest single-code sporting event on the planet, 2008 has certainly proved to be more than a litmus test.
Apart from the labour disputes, spiralling construction costs and political in-fighting that are part and parcel of preparing for an event of this magnitude, there were plenty of other issues.
Xenophobia, widespread power cuts, the resignation of President Thabo Mbeki and a humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe were just some of the distractions organisers of the tournament had to contend with.
And yet, there was much to draw hope and inspiration from.
The grinding machinery tasked with building and renovating stadiums in all 10 host cities as well as numerous other 2010-related construction projects has performed remarkably well.
So much so, that both Fifa and the 2010 Local Organising Committee have expressed confidence that South Africa will meet its 2010 requirements ahead of schedule.
In addition, preparations for the 2009 Confederations Cup – a key curtain-raiser for the World Cup – are on target, with tickets selling briskly.
There was also good news on the crime front, with the launch of the recruitment process for 41 000 extra police officers by 2010 and the acquisition of high-tech security equipment – including helicopters, body armour and high-tech bomb disabling equipment – for the tournament.
TNS Research Surveys, which has gauged public confidence levels over preparations for 2010, says every South African stands to benefit considerably from our hosting of this event.
“We need to harness this energy to talk up the event,” the organisation said in a recent statement. “We recall the incredible energy and joy that swept the whole country when the bid result was announced. Negativity risks damaging this energy and can affect our actual ability to do what we know we can do.”
2009 promises to be another heady year for South Africa, but in just 12 months, hundreds of millions of people around the globe will be tuning in for the 2010 Final Draw, an event that will kick-start the biggest celebration this continent has ever seen.
As Fifa Secretary General Jerome Valcke recently remarked: “There is no turning back.”
Urquhart is a former Fifa World Cup media officer and the current editor of Project 2010