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South Africa giving final touches to preparations

sports Updated: Jun 09, 2010 00:18 IST

South Africa put the finishing touches to its World Cup preparations, rolling out the continent's first high-speed rail link on Tuesday, as organisers told critics it was time to put doubts aside.

The three-billion-dollar Gautrain began whisking passengers from Johannesburg's international airport into the uptown Sandton district, just three days before the tournament begins.

The 100-mile-an-hour link will be one of the key legacies of the tournament and is intended to show that Africa can build transport facilities to rival those of anywhere in the world.

“I have been in Johannesburg just for one hour — the airport and here — but I really thought this was a first world service,” Costa Rican football journalist Gustavo Jimenez told AFP as he stepped off the train at Sandton.

“That's not only because of the facilities and the building, but also because of how much effort they are putting in to helping users,” he added as a security guard helped him hail a taxi to take him to his hotel.

In fact, security guards outnumbered passengers, reflecting the desire by authorities here to deflect fears that a country with one of the world’s highest crime rates is no place to stage the world's biggest sporting event. Tickets from the airport to Sandton cost around 13 dollars, a small fortune for most South Africans but much cheaper than the cost of a taxi ride.