/ 12 January 2010

Serbian team says Benoni hotel a ‘decrepit dump’

The hotel offered to the Serbian team for the Soccer World Cup is a “decrepit dump”, the Belgrade daily Press said on Tuesday, quoting a travel agent.

The three-star Lakes Hotel and Conference Centre in Benoni is surrounded by an “odour of staleness,” the walls need a paint-job, the rooms offer only double beds and bathrooms are tiny, Snezana Malusevic of the Plavi, Plavi travel agency told the newspaper.

The agency has been put in charge of finding accommodation for the national team at the Soccer World Cup, set to start on June 11.

“We haven’t yet booked Lakes and Conference, because we’re trying to find something better,” Malusevic said. “We’ll send the team there only if they fix what we asked.”

The hotel is 30km from Johannesburg airport and 80km from Pretoria, where Serbia play their first match.

Malusevic said Serbia had until January 31 to select a team base.

According to Farayi Mangwende, group communication manager for African Sun — which is the hospitality group that manages The Lakes on behalf of the owner — “Plavi, Plavi travel agency has not been hosted by The Lakes at any time and no representative from that travel agency accompanied the team. Match [professional services company appointed by Fifa], not the Serbian team, contracts the hotel on behalf of the Serbian team if they decide that that is where they would like to stay.

“Match appointed The Lakes as a Fifa World Cup 2010 hotel of choice after inspecting it and assessing it against Match’s list of criteria — at no time during this process did Match request that changes were made to the premises.”

In response to the Press article, Mangwende said: “Neither the travel agent who made the statement nor anyone from that agency has visited the hotel and therefore there is no foundation upon which to comment. We choose not to speculate on the motivation for releasing the statement. The Lakes was assessed by Fifa and Match and found to be suitable for the hosting of a Fifa World Cup 2010 qualifying team.”