NAIROBI, Kenya, April 4 – Since South Africa was awarded the rights to host the 2010 World Cup in 2004, it has been dogged by one question – will the Rainbow nation be ready?
Will the stadiums be done on time? Will the security be up to scratch, is the country and by extension Africa ready for an event of this magnitude?
Doubts have persisted with some quarters fuelling rumours that the tourney would have to be moved over a variety of reasons.
Indeed president of the World soccer governing body Fifa Sepp Blatter had a tour of the country last year giving thumbs up to ongoing preparations.
Chief Executive officer of the organising Danny Jordaan however will not hear any of this. Speaking to African journalist who were touring the vast nation a week ago to inspect and familiarise themselves with the preparations, Jordaan was categorical.
“Only God can stop the World Cup for taking place in South Africa,” he told the journalist underlining the belief that everything will go on as scheduled.
“The hope of an African World Cup is fast becoming a reality. All the facilities are in completion stage, and we shall deliver on schedule,’’ he told the journalists in Johannesburg.
Chief government spokesman Themba Maseko says that hosting the world cup will greatly benefit the community. “The new stadiums we are building are almost 80 percent complete and will be dedicated to football which has not been the case before. The improvement of the infrastructure will also be felt for years to come.”
With South Africa infamous for rampant insecurity, Assistant Commissioner of Police Ben Groenewald says that the police force will pull all stops to ensure that everyone is safe.
The country is spending 565 million rand in purchasing special equipment like water cannons, vehicles, helicopters for use. A further 640 million will be used in deploying security services all over the country during the month long event.
For a start they will employ 32,000 more policemen and 10,000 reservists which will significantly improve their numbers to increase security officers.
There will also be a reaction team in each host city, “this team will have commanding controls and vehicles and will be on stand by in case of anything. The reaction team will have three task forces: an action, emergency and disaster management forces,” said Groenewald.
At the matches venues, there will be a venue operational centre which will be led by a multi disciplined team.
There will also be a special detective team for soccer related crimes. “They will look to combat any crimes involving fans.”
And there will be 24 hour courts which will deal with such crimes with whoever found guilty being deported immediately.
The country will liaise with German, English and Dutch police in combating these crimes and have also signed bilateral agreements with countries to stop hooligans from travelling to South Africa as well as Interpol.
Groenewald added that they will also seek help from 32 participating countries, “We are organising to bring in police from all 32 countries for the matches. They will wear in their police uniform back home to be easily noticed by their fans in case they need asssitance.”
And with the threat of terrorism rising especially in the aftermath of the attack on the Sri Lanka team, measures have been taken to give each of the 32 teams extra security.
“We will have special reaction units attached to all teams and they stay with them for 24 hours in light of the attacks ready to deal with any possible attack.”
But while the country appears on track for a great spectacle, there is not enough publicity towards the event.
There are no posters on the streets or buildings showing what the country is readying itself for.
Even the government spokesman acknowledged that publicity has not been as thorough as it should have been promising to have more publicity generated in Africa to increase awareness about the footballing bonanza.
“We will soon organise a road show which will go through several countries to raise the profile of the event and make the rest of Africa own it.”
The issue of visas has also been raised but Maseko says they will set up quicker and easier visas for visitors. Borders with Mozambique, Botswana will be set up to issue visas on the spot.
South Africa alos need to sensitize its own people ove rthe world cup and ensure that they jump in the bandwagon. And ofcourse ensure that Bafana Bafana does better than it is currently doing.