World Cup will put ‘SA on the map’

The first World Cup to be hosted in Africa will provide an unparalleled business opportunity in four years time, organisers of South Africa 2010 said here at a presentation of their wares.

Up to five million tourists are expected to flood into South Africa for the month-long jamboree, organisers say and the government has committed a R375-billion (â,¬40-billion, $50-billion) development package to the project.

The aim, according to Gwen Ramokgopa, mayor of Tshwane, is to ensure the competition embraces all communities.

”We believe the World Cup really can make a difference on issues such as the alleviation of poverty by involving all groups in society,” Ramokgopa told Agence France-Presse at a media presentation on Friday showcasing South Africa’s preparations in Berlin attended by President Thabo Mbeki.

”Germany 2006 has been widely seen as putting Germany in the global public eye and our aim is to ensure that we leave a real legacy after our tournament in four years time,” Ramokgopa said.

”It’s a wonderful opportunity to put South Africa on the map,” added William Mahlangu, of Tshwane’s mayoral committee policing and emergency services committee.

”We expect four to five million visitors for the World Cup, many of them from the African continent,” South African ambassador to Germany, Moses Chikane, had earlier told a media briefing in Berlin, adding that discussions on the distribution of earmarked cash would begin with Fifa on Monday.

Chikane says South Africa knows it faces a major logistical challenge in hosting sport’s biggest event on a scale which will far exceed the successful 1995 Rugby World Cup and the cricket version three years ago.

Airports ”will have to be revamped. Johannesburg airport is not really coping even at the moment,” Chikane noted.

”Also, we do not have enough hotels.”

But already each venue is busy ensuring the deadline is met. Bekithemba Langalibalele for the Cape Town Routes tourism organisation told AFP the city was building nine new hotels to add to existing hotel bed capacity of 35 000 while Teral Cullen of the city’s World Cup committee, said the airport will be significantly upgraded.

”The World Cup afford us a long-term opportunity to grow and really put us on people’s radar screen,” Cullen said.

”We have strong traditional markets in Britain, Germany and the USA but we can look at an increase of perhaps about 20% to the 1,5-million tourists we get a year. The World Cup will help to open up the market.”

Venue officials from across the country insisted the 19th World Cup, this time more than ever, will be about far more than football but about regional development.

And they agreed with the view of Mbeki and Mandela’s insistence that the event is designed to benefit the whole of Africa.

”Africa is ready, Africa’s time has come, Africa is calling. Come to Africa in 2010,” Mbeki told the presentation, calling for fans to ”celebrate Africa in all its magnificent splendour.”

”The World Cup will have a huge economic impact in terms of job creation and tourism, and it will form a true unifying force,” said Basil de Lange, a project development coordinator from Port Elizabeth, who said the 50 000-capacity stadium taking shape at Nelson Mandela Bay was on target to be ready by 2009.

”The 1995 Rugby World Cup and the cricket really brought people together and we hugely benefited from that,” said Roland Williams, communications manager for the Nelson Mandela Bay venue at Port Elizabeth.

”And soccer is so much bigger, the effect on unifying people can be 20 times bigger!”

Delegates insisted that South Africa will offer fans a secure feast of football.

”We can’t run away from the security issue, which has been a problem in the past,” said Julie-May Ellingson for the Durban municipal authorities.

”We have to educate people as to the benefits of tourism, to show that it brings jobs and that brings money, so we can say to people ‘this is of benefit to you,”’ Ellingson said.

Johannesburg councillor Parks Tau said the capital was in no way being left behind by its fellow venues.

”This World Cup is an African World Cup … with benefits for all of Africa. We are making billions of investments — including R100-million (â,¬11-million) in closed circuit TV to improve security, while the national government is putting in R1,2-billion for road and transport infrastructure.

”What people must realise is that no amount of money can bring the amount of exposure the World Cup will,” Tau concluded. – Sapa-AFP

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