South African President Jacob Zuma on Thursday kicked a football into a crowd of cheering construction workers at Cape Town’s new stadium, marking the one year countdown to the 2010 World Cup.
“We have made it,” Zuma said to cheers in the new 4.45 billion rand (558 million dollar) Green Point Stadium, which is still under construction.
At 4:00 pm (1400 GMT), precisely one year before the World Cup’s kick-off, a girl passed the ball to Zuma which he kicked into the stands.
“Now there is one year before the kick-off and of course we have a wonderful team, the Bafana Bafana. Once again they will surprise the world,” said Zuma, wearing a hardhat decorated like a football.
Jerome Valcke, secretary general of world football’s governing body FIFA, and the head of the local organising committee, Danny Jordaan, attended the ceremony along with the opposition leader Helen Zille, who is the provincial premier.
FIFA and the local organising committee said everything was ready for the Confederations Cup, which gets underway Sunday in what is seen as a curtain raiser to the main event next year.
“It’s ready. There are still a certain number of tickets to be sold. The Confederations Cup will serve as a test, so there are some things that will be improved. It’s not going to be perfect, and the Confederations Cup is never perfect,” Valcke told AFP.
“But generally, we have the four stadiums, we have most of what we asked for, and we are in a situation that will allow us to adequately test thing to be ready for the World Cup,” he said.
At Green Point, the crowd was effusive as Zuma thanked the construction workers at length for their labours.
“It was amazing. I met the president,” said Zolizwa Gila, a crane operator, standing in the middle of an earthen field that will eventually become the pitch.
“I can’t wait for 2010. I want to finish the stadium,” she said. “At the end of the day, I want to say, I made it, I did the stadium.”
The new 68,000-seat stadium is one of the showpieces of the World Cup, situated between the ocean and Cape Town’s landmark Table Mountain.
It’s one of 10 stadiums that will host the tournament that runs from June 11 to July 11 next year.
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