World cup year at last

2010-01-02 00:00

IT’S the year South Africans have been waiting for for six years — 2010 is here and with it the hosting of the Fifa World Cup.

The world’s greatest sporting spectacle, announced as being hosted by South Africa by Fifa president Sepp Blatter at a ceremony in Zurich in May 2004, kicks off at Soccer City in exactly 159 days, on June 11, with the game between South Africa and Mexico.

After a further 61 matches, the final will be played at the same venue on July 11.

Memories of Australia volunteering to step in in the event that South Africa would not be able to complete its preparations on time are long gone. The 10 venues have all been completed on schedule, with the Cape Town Stadium the last to be officially opened on December 15.

Writing in the Star, Local Organising Committee chief executive Danny Jordaan said a series of test events is needed by May for all nine host cities — Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Rustenburg, Polokwane, Nelspruit and Port Elizabeth.

The hosting of the World Cup is expected to boost the South African economy.

Jordaan wrote: “… the hosting of the World Cup is expected to leave a substantial tourism legacy for the host country, with the once-in-a-lifetime marketing opportunity expected to make South Africa a more widely known and understood tourism destination.

“From the start of the first match ... we will be the envy and attention of the world at levels ne­ver seen before by this nation.

“In addition to over three million people who will attend games at 10 of our world-class stadiums, over 450 000 of which will be international visitors, more than 300 broadcasters and 18 000 journalists will cover the 64 games, which will be watched by a cumulative audience of 26 billion around the world.”

According to consultancy firm Grant Thornton, R55 billion will be pumped into the economy because of the World Cup, 415 000 job opportunities will have been created and, during the event, R11,5 billion will be earned through tourism, creating 143 000 jobs.

“[This] does not include substantial private sector spend, including the building of a number of new hotels around the country, and the money being set aside by host cities and municipalities to ready themselves for the event,” said Jordaan.

On the field, the 2010 World Cup will have one of the strongest lineups ever — remarkably, all countries currently ranked in Fifa’s top 20 have qualified.

All the usual African power­house teams have qualified with the exception of Egypt, though Algeria impressively outplayed the Pharaohs in the qualifiers and will be a competitive outfit.

Among the stars taking part will be Fifa World Player of the Year Lionel Messi. “Besides leading Argentina, Lionel Messi has impressed for his club, Barcelona,” Jordaan wrote. “The 5-foot-6-inch forward can take on two or three defenders at a time and could turn a few heads (and ankles) come World Cup time.”

All of Fifa/FIFPro’s official World XI will represent their countries at 2010. These are Iker Casillas, Xavi, Andrés Iniesta and Fer­nando Torres (Spain), Nemanja Vidic (Serbia), Daniel Alves (Brazil), John Terry (England), Patrice Evra (France), Steven Gerrard (England) and Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal).

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