The Adidas Kopanya – official ball of the
2009 Confederations Cup. (Image: Adidas)
The Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the 2010 Fifa World Cup remains confident about the country’s preparation overall, and particularly about the progress of stadium construction, saying that completion of all venues is expected by the end of 2009.
The organisers of the much-anticipated sporting spectacle have also said that they do not expect the ongoing global economic crisis to dent expected tourism figures during the four weeks of the World Cup.
The LOC’s new chief communications officer Richard Mkhondo, who replaced Tim Modise in November 2008, announced that good progress was being made on all 10 stadiums. He added that construction work on all venues was expected to be completed well ahead of time – by the end of 2009, in fact – despite the gloomy predictions of naysayers.
Mkhondo expressed confidence that the weakened economic climate around the world would not result in a decrease in the expected number of 2010 visitors to South Africa. He said that fans will do whatever it takes to make it to South African shores for the first-ever football World Cup to be held on the continent.
“The Fifa World Cup is a once-in-a-lifetime event that people save towards for many years,” he said. “With the fanaticism of football fans around the world, we do not expect a major drop in visitor numbers.”
Mkhondo added that although visitors may well have less money to spend, South Africa remained an affordable destination, and the country’s favourable exchange rate would not drain the wallets of cash-strapped tourists.
South Africa’s goal of having 10-million international tourists visiting the country by 2010 is a real possibility, Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk said at the launch of National Tourism Month in September 2008. This figure may even be treached in 2009.
“There is no doubt that South Africa is one of the most sought-after destinations in the world, and the figures continue to prove this again and again,” he said. “Compared to the figure of less than 600 000 foreign visitors in 1994, the long term growth we have seen is truly something to celebrate.”
As the country gears up for the biggest sporting event in the world and the largest influx of visitors it has ever experienced, tourism figures are painting a positive picture. Overall foreign arrivals, said Van Schalkwyk, grew by 7.6% from January to May 2008 to reach a total of almost 4-million.
No deterrent for visitors
Other current issues of concern, such as the recent power outages in South Africa and the cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe, as well as that country’s political and economic turmoil, would not be a deterrent for World Cup tourists, said Mkhondo.
Although cholera has spread from the beleaguered country of Zimbabwe to neighbouring states, including Malawi and South Africa, and in spite of calls by pessimists for fans to boycott the World Cup because of this issue, Mkhondo and others do not believe that it will pose any threat to visitors by the time 2010 rolls around.
Mkhondo said that the LOC did not see these events having any significant direct impact on South Africa’s ability to host a successful World Cup “or on its ability to guarantee the safety and health of visitors to the country”.
Researcher and economist from financial services company Efficient Group, Fanie Joubert, is of the same opinion. He agreed with Mkhondo that the current instability in the region would not keep tourists away from South Africa during June and July 2010. However, financial and health concerns might keep tourists away from some destinations they would otherwise have visited.
An African football
With the Confederations Cup due to take place in South Africa between 14 June and 28 June 2009, work on the four stadiums in the host cities of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Rustenburg and Bloemfontein has been progressing steadily.
Johannesburg 2010 executive director Sibongile Mazibuko told Fifa.com in December 2008 that the citizens of Johannesburg are very excited about both the Confederations Cup and the World Cup.
“We understand the work that goes behind organising an event like the Confederations Cup and we are therefore preparing for all situations,” said Mazibuko. “We have already identified places where we will have public viewing facilities because we know that not everyone will get a ticket inside the stadium.”
She added that since both tournaments are African events, the city’s 2010 unit wants to make sure that everyone gets to experience both events.
The Confederations Cup, held the year before the World Cup in the host country of the big event, is considered a dress rehearsal for the most widely-viewed and followed sporting event in the world. The official football of the tournament is the striking Adidas Kopanya, a name taken from a Sesotho world meaning “join together”.
The ball was officially unveiled at the annual Nelson Mandela Challenge match in November 2008, which saw South Africa’s Bafana Bafana squaring up to the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon. The artwork on the ball is inspired by the traditional designs of South Africa’s Ndebele people and features the characteristic geometric elements, vibrant colours and black borders made famous by talented Ndebele artists.
Current Bafana Bafana captain Aaron Mokoena, who also plays in the blue and white kit of Blackburn Rovers, recently said he would like to see an African side winning one of the two upcoming tournaments.
“We, as Africans, need to make a statement; we need to show that we can play football,” he said. “The fact that it’s on our home soil is an added incentive for us.”
Work in progress
According to the LOC’s Mkhondo, all four stadiums are on track to be completed well ahead of the upcoming Confederations Cup tournament. The four stadiums are also World Cup venues.
The LOC affirmed that all the major refurbishments to Ellis Park in Johannesburg, Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld stadium, Bloemfontein’s Free State stadium, and the Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg, are complete. All that remains is for certain cosmetic touches and last-minute work on the pitches, precincts and infrastructure.
Work on the remaining six World Cup stadiums is expected to be complete by the end of the year. Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg, Peter Mokaba stadium in Polokwane, Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban, the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth, and Nelspruit’s Mbombela stadium, which sustained minor damage during a fierce storm earlier in January, will be handed over to Fifa in October 2009.
The last stadium, Green Point in Cape Town, will be ready for handover in December 2009.
The Peter Mokaba and Mbombela stadiums are about 60% complete, while the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium is already 70% complete. Work on the Soccer City stadium currently stands at 67% complete, with the roof about 90% complete. Moses Mabhida stadium is 65% complete, while work on the brand new Green Point stadium is halfway towards completion.
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