World Cup hoopla: South Africa says no emergency to move games
Special to USAfricaonline.com
There was never an emergency plan to move the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament if South Africa was not ready, chief organizer Danny Jordaan has said.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter said two years ago that the United States was among countries that could host at short notice, but Jordaan contends this could have happened only in the event of a natural disaster.
The South Africa 2010 chief executive said his country would never have agreed to invest the equivalent of almost $5 billion Cdn in infrastructure if FIFA had imposed any other contingencies.
“No country will sign that contract unless it is a secure contract,” Jordaan said at a tourism conference in London.
“The organizing association has just one provision [about a] natural disaster destroying infrastructure to such an extent that the country cannot recover in time.”
Mexico managed to host the 1986 World Cup just eight months after an earthquake killed about 10,000 people in the country, although the tournament was then just half the size of the 32-country array set for South Africa.
Concerns had been raised that South Africa would not be ready to host the competition after construction of stadiums and transport infrastructure lagged behind schedule.
A new train line from Johannesburg’s international airport to Pretoria has been curtailed, and progress was held up further by a construction workers’ strike.
Only ‘act of God’ can move Cup
But Jordaan said he was never worried.
“Only an act of God that can move the World Cup away,” Jordaan said. “God has been merciful, I suppose.”
Jordaan said South Africa had regularly proved itself capable of hosting international showpieces, starting with rugby’s World Cup in 1995 — just a year after the country’s first democratic elections.
“The rugby World Cup, the cricket World Cup, the athletics World Cup and now the football World Cup,” Jordaan said.
“In golf too: the Presidents Cup and other major events. You cannot mention more than 10 countries in the world with that kind of event profile.”
Pointing out that this year’s Confederations Cup and British and Irish Lions rugby tour passed without serious incident, Jordaan again denied that the level of crime in South Africa would deter visitors or mar the first soccer World Cup to be held in Africa.
He said South African security forces got experience of policing major events by assisting at the 2006 World Cup in Germany and last year’s Beijing Olympics. But he cautioned fans against straying from established tourist routes.
“There’s clearly a distinction to be made between societal crime in the country and event safety and security,” Jordaan said. ref: canadianpress