World Cup 2010 chief Danny Jordaan defended South Africa’s safety record in hosting major sporting events on Monday, arguing that not one fan or athlete had been affected in 13 years.
Responding to fears that South Africa’s crime problem might affect the World Cup, Jordaan claimed that rising tourist numbers indicate there are no major safety issues about which to be concerned.
”Over the last three years, the tourist figures have grown by an average 11%, and higher every year,” Jordaan told a World Cup 2010 briefing at London’s South Africa House. ”So more and more people are coming to South Africa.”
Jordaan said that there have never been any reports of fans or athletes being robbed, killed or injured.
”A month ago, Tottenham Hotspur were there. Ask them,” he said. ”Three months ago, the England rugby team were there, they didn’t do very well, but they had a good time and were very safe. Ask them.
”Ask those who came for the Rugby World Cup. The Cricket World Cup, the African Cup of Nations — not a single incident. We had Barcelona, we had England, Argentina, Germany, all of the big teams in the world playing. Not a single incident in South Africa over 13 years around any of our major events.”
Jordaan said South Africa’s crime rate is borne out of a lack of education and chronic unemployment. ”But our ability to safeguard all of our visitors and all of our guests at our sports events over the last 13 years, [there has been] not a single incident,” he said.
Jordaan also said every stadium will be ready at least 10 months before the start of the tournament.
A year ago, Fifa president Sepp Blatter expressed concern that work on building new stadiums at Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane had not started. Blatter is reportedly now happy, and Jordaan showed photos of building sites — although they depicted little more than the foundations.
”If we complete all the stadiums on time, we will be the first country in the world to do so,” Jordaan said. ”You may not believe that. You go to Athens or to Wembley, or to many other stadiums, you will see that we will actually be the first.”
The 2004 Athens Olympics stadiums were only just finished in time for the Games, while the rebuilt Wembley opened more than a year late and missed out on staging the 2006 FA Cup final.
”Construction by its very nature is a slow starter,” Jordaan said. ”You must first of all secure your funds and, in our case, that’s €2-billion. You have to budget, then you have to do an environment impact assessment.
”You must make sure that the ownership of the land is clarified. We have a particular procedure of appointing construction companies, ordering the resources required, bringing in the cranes from all over the world. And then you can start. I don’t think that you could have had a quicker start.”
Jordaan said that four existing stadiums that only needed minor work are already available to use. And he called on those criticising South Africa’s progress not to panic or lose faith.
”You must be patient,” he said. ”Some people take longer to believe than others. We waited 300 years to be free. We waited 100 years to host this World Cup. We are very patient. We have only dealt with this matter for three years. We can deal with it for another year.” — Sapa-AP