PMB drops 2010 ball

2009-11-19 00:00

INDICATIONS are that Pietermaritzburg will not become a training base camp for one of the teams in next year’s Fifa World Cup.

This was revealed by sources in the Msunduzi Municipality who spoke to The Witness on condition of anonymity. They said the municipality has “dropped the ball” on a chance to lure one of the teams to use Harry Gwala Stadium, which has just been upgraded, as their training camp. The city will lose out on the economic spin-offs of having a team based here.

They said the poor state of the city’s roads and airport and the lack of a hotel that meets Fifa’s requirements are counting against council.

Attempts to have international investors build a hotel near the Victoria Country Club were bungled by council. The Witness has learnt that council held talks with investors from Switzerland and the delegation flew to the city, but council failed to impress them.

Plans to upgrade roads, including Boshoff Street, to ease traffic congestion in the city, have not gone ahead. Deputy municipal manager for infrastructure services Phil Mashoko said that as a non-host city its roads upgrade projects are not aligned to the World Cup.

Sources said the municipality is focusing on other marketing measures such as fan parks and promoting the World Cup to locals.

To add insult to injury, alleged the sources, the political squabbling in the municipality is not helping the situation.

The uMgungundlovu District, the sources said, is meddling in Msunduzi’s World Cup preparations and this has allegedly further strained relations between the two councils.

T he Witness has learnt that the council tried to lure Tunisia, who ended up not qualifying for the World Cup. The municipality also held talks with Cameroon recently in a bid to lure them.

Other small cities such as Mossel Bay and George in the southern Cape have secured team base camps, even going so far as to hold language classes for city employees. Mossel Bay will host Paraguay and George, Japan.

Mossel Bay spokesman Harry Hill told The Witness extensive marketing and research went into trying to attract teams.

Hill said they expect 6 000 to 10 000 Paraguay supporters, which will have a very positive impact on their economy.

George Mayor Flip de Swardt said they recently had confirmation that Japan will set up base in their area, drawing about 20 000 fans.

He told The Witness they worked hard to secure an overseas team.

Deputy municipal manager for community services Zwe Hulane said the council has done a lot of preparation for the World Cup since 2006. He said the city was the first in the country to host fan parks for big sporting events.

He suggested the city could still secure a team. “We are not able to say which [team] will be based in the city. Who we are talking to will remain confidential until confirmation. We are [also] not aware of any team that has confirmed with any city in the province,” said Hulane.

Meanwhile, it is still unclear when the Harry Gwala stadium will be completed, but it is nearing its final stages.

Msunduzi’s executive committee agreed to bear the cost of the electricity upgrade after receiving a request from uMgungundlovu municipal manager S’bu Khuzwayo. The upgrade will cost R408 444 above the R120 million stadium building cost.

The lateness of the stadium completion has affected PSL team Maritzburg United, who have had to play at Woodburn . United were due to move back to Harry Gwala after the scheduled October 30 handover of the stadium to the city.

Said Club chairman Farouk Kadodia, “After our visit to Harry Gwala in September, we have not had any further feedback on its progress. Harry Gwala would also need to be inspected and passed by the PSL before we could use it again.”

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