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Port city shocked by FIFA decision

sports Updated: Jul 29, 2008 18:55 IST
Dhiman Sarkar

FIFA’s decision to take this city off next year's Confederations Cup list has hurt Port Elizabeth and Mzukisi Skade let it show. Getting FIFA delegates over in March 2009 for a visit to the completed Nelson Mandela Multipurpose Stadium would be a fitting rebuff, he thought.

FIFA general-secretary Jerome Valcke had cited problems with the roof as reason before asserting that the stadium would be ready for the World Cup finals where it is supposed to host eight matches. City Mayor Bicks Ndoni had then objected to this, saying the venue would be ready for the eight-team tournament.

"I don't know what made them do this. We were told that FIFA's technical team thought we wouldn't be ready though I don't know on what it based the decision on," Skade, an official from the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, Port Elizabeth's municipality, said on Thursday. "We are still getting over the shock."

Skade mentioned a presentation being put together for FIFA whereby the Eastern Cape city would reaffirm its commitment of sticking to the March 2009 deadline. And ask some questions, he said. "I can tell you, as of now, we are on course," he said, adding that the 1500 on site workers have sacrificed public holidays and weekends to ensure that the deadline is met.

The original plan, he said, was for the municipality to hand over the stadium to FIFA after a dry run before the Confederations Cup, take it back and hand it over again in March 2010.

Work on the drainage starts in November. The turf is being done at a farm five km from here and it will take a month to firm up after being transported here. Factoring in industrial strikes and even power cuts, Skade said December 2008 is the deadline for completing the stadium structure, its 44,358 seats and the roof, the design of which had to have several modifications because this is a very windy city. The road around the stadium, general finishing, IT work, turnstiles and fencing would be done by March, 2009, he said. All for 1.5 billion rand, the cost having escalated from R1.1 billion, when work started in 2005, owing to inflation.