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28 Apr 2009 08:11
Hosting Fifa’s Confederations Cup in June and Indian Premier League cricket on short notice gives South African officials confidence the Soccer World Cup will be staged without major problems.
South Africa’s US ambassador Welile Nhlapo said on Monday that past cricket and Rugby World Cup successes together with the ongoing cricket matches moved from India for security reasons will allow for greater testing of security measures.
“These events will give us the chance to deal with all sorts of situations, give us time to correct anything that might be needed and provide a secure World Cup,” Nhlapo said. “By the time we host we will be ready.”
Exactly 15 years to the day since Nelson Mandela won the first democratic election in South Africa to mark an end to apartheid, Nhalpo said economic woes have not been a setback to South Africa delivering a successful Soccer World Cup.
“These are 15 years of real serious progress,” Nhlapo said.
“There are some problems we continue to face but we can say confidently that despite the current economy we’re doing quite well.
South African police have trained at US sites, some with FBI support, to prepare for the World Cup.
“We do have some challenges,” Nhlapo said. “There are special police training for the challenges we know we’re going to face. We’re trying to cover all the areas and needs.”
South Africa will spend $5-billion to help ensure 200 000 police officers on duty for the World Cup, helping safeguard teams as well as visitors.
US interest in 2010 World Cup tickets ranks only behind the United Kingdom, South Africa tourism officials said, just as Americans moved past Germans to become the second-largest group among the land’s nine-million yearly tourists.
“England might have the most popular team but, by far except for South Africa, demand for tickets for the World Cup from the United States is off the charts,” US Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said.
That interest impressed Lucas Radebe, South Africa’s most capped player and a former English Premiership star with fallen giants Leeds United.
“With that interest in the World Cup, it’s the start of building a great footballing nation,” he said.
Sthu Zungu, South Africa Tourism’s US regional president, said more than 10-million global visitors are expected next year with 350 000 to 400 000 of them coming during the World Cup and each spending on average about $1 000.
“The American tourist in South Africa is very important. He’s one of the biggest spenders,” Zungu said. “With the economic downturn, we’re not expecting huge growth in coming years. The World Cup will give us the growth we need.”
ANC leader Jacob Zuma, set to become the nation’s new president next week following last week’s elections, has said he fears the economic slump would hurt South African jobs but the tournament has boosted construction jobs thanks to venue renovations and other new facilities.
Gulati, a college economics professor, said that while demand might be down for the 2010 World Cup compared to some years due to travel and other issues, there’s still enough interest to ensure more people seek tickets than get them.
“Nothing in the world is recession-proof. The good thing is there is such demand for tickets,” Gulati said. “There’ll be some effects from [the economy] to be sure but there’s such interest that it won’t be as severe.”
And travel from within Africa figures to be at historic levels.
“This is an African World Cup. We hold the hopes and dreams of the whole continent,” Radebe said. “I’ve no doubt South Africa will be ready. We have waited a long time for this event. We’ll grab it with both hands.” - AFP
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