South Africa’s 2010 readiness got a thumbs up on Monday after a successful Confederations Cup, with organisers confident that hitches will be ironed out ahead of the continent’s first World Cup.
Security passed with no major incident, a critical concern with crime levels in South Africa among the world’s worst, while the football curtainraiser was also praised for unifying South Africans 15 years after democracy.
“The rehearsal, as this tournament has become known, has been very satisfactory. We are happy with the level of commitment shown by the organising committee and the government,” FIFA boss Sepp Blatter told journalists.
The world football body gave organisers a 7.5 out of ten for the Confeds Cup, saying it hoped the score will rise to 10 by next year for the world’s football extravaganza.
Blatter identified transport – hit by reports of bottlenecks at public park-and-ride facilities – and accommodation as areas that needed improvement before 450,000 fans descend on the country.
“One item in question beforehand was security but the organising committee headed by Danny Jordaan have done a very good job – the hospitality and reception by the (local) population has been really remarkable,” said Blatter.
“So I am satisfied with the way the competition went but there are still challenges which will have to be dealt with in terms of transport and accommodation.”
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valke said problems will be discussed at a debriefing on Tuesday.
“There aren’t any problems that won’t be resolved before the draw in December” he added.
Valke expressed confidence in the country’s ability to provide security for the World Cup, saying “South Africa has exceeded expectations during the Confederations tournament”.
Despite a widely-reported theft at the hotel of the Egytian team, police logged 39 criminal cases that consisted mainly incidents of petty theft reported around the stadium vicinity and at two hotels hosting delegations.
During the World Cup, the number of police will be increased to 30,000, according to the organising committee.
Deputy police chief, Andre Pruis said the event’s joint security team was “satisfied that years of planning and preparations resulted in a tournament during which no major security breach occured”.
“We will build on lessons learned and expand on best practices to assist FIFA and the LOC in presenting the best World Cup ever in 2010,” said Pruis.
The World Cup will be played for the first time on African soil with benefits expected to spill over into neighbouring countries.
The event is expected to rack up billions for South Africa, with researchers on Saturday saying that the global crunch was unlikely to affect a 55.7 billion rand (7.1 billion dollars) boost for Africa’s largest economy.
Consulting firm Grant Thornton estimates that 483,257 foreign tourists – including fans, teams, and media – will spend 8.5 billion rand during the month-long tournament to be played in nine host cities.
The Confederations Cup was also lauded for filling stands with fans of different races, with football traditionally supported by black South Africans.
“The tournament drew the most diverse spectators this country has ever seen, that is a huge achievement for us as a nation,” said local organising committee chief Danny Jordaan.
Amid gushing praise, South Africa’s press cautioned that the country had a year to iron out challenges.
“But even the most cynical among the foreign visitors have slowly come to accept that SA will host a world-class Soccer World Cup next year after successfully staging the Confederations Cup.”
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