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With event visas & enhanced security, SA gear up for ‘national duty’

Time and again South African citizens are being told that the success of the 2010 FIFA World Cup is not just a national commitment but a national duty to be undertaken with pride, writes Rakesh Thapliyal. All geared up

sports Updated: May 07, 2009 02:25 IST
Rakesh Thapliyal
Rakesh Thapliyal
Hindustan Times

This nondescript town will not host any of the 2010 FIFA World Cup matches, yet everyone, from the taxi drivers to owners of hotels, lodges, shopping malls and restaurants are very enthusiastic that the mega-event will be held in South Africa. All geared up

Although none of the matches are allotted to the town, locals say they will still earn handsomely because teams will train here and their supporters will descend in huge numbers.

Amidst the glitter and glamour of the IPL, South Africa is silently going about its task of preparing for the quadrennial event. If brand new stadiums are being built at certain venues, old ones are being refurbished at others.

And with soccer hooliganism becoming a big issue, the crime branch has initiated a massive recruitment drive. There are plans to increase the force from 55,000 to a whopping 1.9 lakh, and more than 41,000 of them will be just ensuring the smooth conduct of the World Cup.

According to a survey, South Africa has three police personnel per 1000 citizens, whereas on an average, the number of security personnel employed in other countries is two per thousand.

In order to be fully prepared for any eventuality and also to protect the five-lakh fans expected during the Cup, the crime branch is taking the assistance of countries like Germany and France who have previously hosted the mega-event. Besides, the services of Interpol have also been enlisted.

For the first time in the history of the Cup, there are plans to give ‘event visas’. According to the Home Department's National Immigration Branch, event visas will be two types — one for those member countries who will participate in the Confederations Cup and the World Cup, and the other for tourists coming from other African countries.

Time and again South African citizens are being told that the success of the event is not just a national commitment but a national duty to be undertaken with pride.

While cities like Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Mbombela and Polokwane are building new stadiums others are refurbishing old ones. Johannesburg's Soccer City Stadium will increase its capacity from 80,000 to 94,700. The Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg, Free State in Bloemfontein, Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria and Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg are being given a facelift.

The Confederations Cup — to be held from June 14 to 29 this year — will act as a dress rehearsal for the big event.

Finally, to instil a sense of national pride among South Africans, they are being asked questions on what should be done to make the event a grand success and the country a great host and 2010 is just a game away!

First Published: May 07, 2009 02:20 IST