28 May 2010
After six years of sustained hard work and intense global scrutiny of their ability to deliver, South Africa’s nine host cities have produced 10 World Cup stadiums – matching and exceeding international standards – which will soon be known to television viewers the world over.
Gleaming, fully complete, along with perfectly manicured pitches and world-class technology, South Africa’s 10 football “cathedrals” are testament to the country’s ability to produce the goods, whatever the circumstances.
By Sunday, the host cities will all formally have handed the venues over to Fifa and the tournament’s Organising Committee.
Organising Committee (OC) CEO Danny Jordaan and Fifa secretary-general Jerome Valcke began unveiling plaques at the 10 stadiums this week, starting with Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Tshwane/Pretoria, Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Rustenburg, Free State Stadium in Mangaung/Bloemfontein, Green Point Stadium in Cape Town, and Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
By the end of the week they will have visited Johannesburg’s Ellis Park and Soccer City stadiums, with Fifa president Sepp Blatter due to join them on the weekend for the final stops of the tour at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, and Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth.
‘This is the beginning of the World Cup’
“This is the beginning of the World Cup,” said Jordaan. “We’re here to officially take over operational responsibility of the stadiums, but also to thank all the host cities for all the years of hard work and preparations and for excellent delivery of world-class facilities.
“It’s absolutely wonderful seeing the stadiums handed over in a state of complete readiness, with stadium media centres, volunteer centres and broadcast areas already in place,” Jordaan added.
“Now, the difference maker of this World Cup is going to be our people, their warmth and the way they will embrace and celebrate the tournament. That will leave the lasting impression.”
Valcke said it was now “time to enjoy the World Cup. It will come and go so fast. It’s time now for all of us to be together, enjoy great football and have a great time in South Africa.”
Magnificent playing surfaces
Long a source of contention, perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the tour was the magnificent quality of the playing surfaces at the stadiums – an aspect sure to find favour with the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Fernando Torres and Wayne Rooney over the coming weeks.
Valcke, however, singled out the Green Point Stadium, which he said “has the best pitch of all the stadiums.
“We will take care of your stadiums and make sure we return it looking just as nice as it was when you handed it over to us, except perhaps for some damage to the pitch in the coming weeks,” Valcke assured the host cities.
Former Cape Town mayor, now Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille summed up the feelings of all the cities and workers involved with the mammoth project.
“What a wonderful job, what a great partnership,” Zille said. “It’s been such an extraordinary project, with so many people involved. South African project managers have trumped every expectation with the incredible work they’ve done. Let us now transform the world’s perception of our country!”