South Africans to mark 100-day World Cup countdown in style

2010-03-02 12:34

Schoolchildren will ditch their uniforms for football jerseys,

while dancers will take to the streets today as South Africa celebrates the

100-day countdown to the World Cup.


Top FIFA officials, including the world football body president

Sepp Blatter and secretary general Jerome Valcke, will mark the occasion in

Durban with a press conference aimed at dispelling doubts about South Africa’s

readiness for the June 11 to July 11 tournament.


They’ll be winding up a tour of the 10 stadiums that will host the

matches, aiming to reassure critics that despite some work being done on the

pitches and the surrounding grounds, all the venues are on track for the

kick-off.


South Africa has poured 33 billion rand (3.9 billion dollars, 3.2

billion euros) into preparations for the tournament.


The heavy construction is already finished at all the stadiums.

Soccer City, the 95 000-seat venue for the opening and final

matches should be handed over within a month.


Major upgrades to airports in Johannesburg, Cape Town and

Bloemfontein are complete, while Durban’s new airport is set to open on May

1.


Valcke said on Monday that on a scale from one to 10, South

Africa’s readiness was at an eight.


“We will be at 10 on June 11,” he told journalists. “In terms of

readiness, South Africa is ready to host the World Cup in 2010.”


Ordinary South Africans are being urged to get into the spirit by

wearing the green and yellow jersey of the Bafana
Bafana national side, blowing

the vuvuzela trumpets that are ubiquitous at local matches and waving the

national flag, said Danny Jordaan, head of the Local Organising Committee.


He said South Africans were also being urged to learn their

national anthem, which includes verses in five of the country’s 11 official

languages, and to buy tickets for the matches.


“We see a tremendous response,” Jordaan said last week.


FIFA says that 2.2 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 100-day mark will give South Africa a chance to try to overcome

lingering concerns about the games, especially 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 2.4 billion rand on security,

recruiting 41 000 additional police and buying hi-tech equipment for the

competition.


Overall, South Africans are increasingly optimistic about the World

Cup. A survey out yesterday found that 85% believe the nation will be ready for

the games.


The public was less rosy about the chances regarding t the

hot-and-cold fortunes of Bafana Bafana – only 55% said they thought the team was

ready to compete.

 

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