/ 2 March 2010

SA is ready for the World Cup, says Fifa

World soccer governing body Fifa on Tuesday brushed aside lingering doubts about South Africa’s readiness for the World Cup, as cities across the nation staged dance parties and celebrations to launch the 100-day countdown.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter insisted the country was ready to host Africa’s first World Cup, which kicks off on June 11, and said he was bothered by naysayers who worry South Africa won’t pull it off.

“It’s not so much that there’s pessimism, but that it’s always being thrown into doubt. It’s bad, because when there’s doubt, there’s no confidence. For me and Fifa, that bothers us sometimes,” Blatter told a news conference in Durban.

“There is no doubt, no doubt,” he said. “Let’s go now, let’s have this World Cup, and then we will discuss it at the end of July.”

He spoke after a tour of South Africa’s 10 stadiums that will host the month-long tournament. Construction is complete at all the stadiums, and only two have yet to host games to try out the new facilities.

“We are on track, we are ready to make this World Cup and this is the main message following this inspection tour,” Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke said.

The 100-day countdown dominated South African media on Tuesday, with celebrations planned in all the country’s main cities.

Schoolchildren were invited to ditch their uniforms for football jerseys, while Johannesburg planned a street party in the Sandton business district to teach people the “diski” — a dance inspired by football moves that is the centrepiece of the country’s marketing campaign.

Durban was deploying teams to taxi ranks and train stations across the city to pass out 100-day badges, while in front of City Hall a pile of 100 footballs was set out, with one to be given away each day until June 11.

South Africa has poured R33-billion into preparations for the tournament.

In addition to the stadiums, major upgrades to airports in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Bloemfontein are complete, while Durban’s new airport is set to open on May 1.

Fifa says that 2,2-million of the 2,9-million tickets have already been sold, even though fewer foreign fans are expected to attend.

South Africa is banking on 450 000 foreign visitors, though the actual number could be lower, with many fans overseas still recovering from the shock of the global recession.

The country is seizing the publicity around the 100-day mark to try to reassure fans about visiting South Africa, especially about security in a nation with one of the highest crime rates in the world, averaging 50 murders each day.

South Africa has spent more than R2,4-billion on security.

Overall, South Africans are increasingly optimistic about the World Cup. A survey out on Monday found that 85% believe the nation will ready for the games.

The public was less rosy about the chances about the hot-and-cold fortunes of Bafana Bafana — only 55% said they thought the team was ready to compete. — AFP