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South Africa well-prepared for kickoff

sports Updated: Nov 25, 2009 00:50 IST
Dhiman Sarkar

Danny Jordaan appears to have the patience of a teacher dealing with a difficult group; one that remains sceptical about the point being made despite explanations and evidence. And the point Jordaan sought to make here on Monday, 199 days before kickoff, is that South Africa is as ready as it gets for the 2010 World Cup football finals.

Jordaan, CEO of the 2010 World Cup organising committee, accepted that apprehensions about security, accommodation and transport remain, but the 58-year-old sought to project them as just that. Airports have been upgraded, work on stadia and infrastructure renovation are on course and proof that the world wants to come to South Africa lies in the tickets sales
going well (650,527 as on Sep 28, 2009), he told a group of Asian journalists here on FIFA’s invitation.

The real challenge will happen after the Dec 4 draw in Cape Town. South Africa’s underperformance in the run-up to the finals is a “general concern” and he said a good draw would allay fears of an early exit.

“Also, it is only after the draw that we will get to know the profile of the fans who will be at a particular city and only then can we fine-tune preparations (related to security, crowd control and accommodation). After the draw, a lot of challenges will emerge,” he said.

Jordaan downplayed accommodation worries, attributing the perception to the lack of graded hotels in South Africa. “There are a lot of people who don’t want their hotels to be graded and so we have 557 hotels graded by the Tourist Grading Council of South Africa and 1,177 hotels that aren’t graded. But those are just as good… And I saw people sleeping in the Berlin train station, here they could be sleeping bags at Oliver Tambo International (the Johannesburg airport).”

Cities like Nelspruit (in Eastern Transvaal) and Polokwane (Limpopo province) could have an accommodation problem and so it’s possible that an adjacent country like Swaziland would be “engaged.” “Why should people travel five hours when they can by staying in another country, get to the venues in one?”

Spiralling rates of lodgings, though, is a matter of concern.

The organising committee is also working on making domestic air travel cheaper. “We are looking at making air travel more
affordable. Extra buses (around 1000) will be added and we have inter-city trains.”

And to ensure that South Africa isn’t priced out of its own party, Jordaan said 1,20,000 free tickets will be distributed and 40,000 tickets given to workers who worked on the 10 stadia to be used.

African countries, Jordaan said, have a history of slipping into decline after liberation and celebration of their independence. If that doesn’t happen in South Africa, it would be because the World Cup came here at the right time.