Thursday, May 3, 2007

Good for Them: South Africa Defends 2010 Finals Bid

The South African government answered FIFA president Sepp Blatter's contention that the 2010 World Cup Finals may be moved if the African nation isn't ready for the games.

Government spokesman Themba Maseko said on Thursday that 'sensationalist headlines' misrepresented Blatter's remarks that other countries were ready to take over.

Earlier this week, Blatter said the Finals would be moved if South Africa wasn't ready to host them.

'We definitely must have a possibility to go somewhere else, but it must be a natural catastrophe,' Blatter said.

Blatter listed the United States, England, Japan, Spain, Mexico and Australia as potential alternatives - but stressed he was confident South Africa would be ready to stage an 'excellent World Cup.' (Sounds like he's saying two things here. 'Yes, we're keeping the Cup in SA! But here are 34,765 other places that can host it if/when they can't!' Unfair ...)

"It is regrettable, and in the case of the South African media inexplicable, that Sepp Blatter's unambiguous comments ... were misrepresented as Blatter expressing doubt in our country's capacity to stage the World Cup," Maseko said after a cabinet meeting.

Maseko said the cabinet had 'expressed full confidence' that the stadiums and infrastructure will be ready in time for the 2010 Finals, the first time they will be held in Africa.

There are a host of issues to rectify: from beefing up security to expanding hotel capacity to deal with the huge number of visitors; from overhauling its transport system to building new stadiums.

Local organizing chief Danny Jordaan has repeatedly stressed that South Africa is on, if not ahead of, schedule.

I think it's refreshing that the South African committee decided to defend themselves publicly. The country's been dogged by doubts over their ability to host these games since being named hosts a few years back.

Confidence can only grow from seeing a positive result in the future, not by constantly doubting whether they have the capability to put on a good show.

There's no doubt in my mind the people of South Africa will put on a good tournament and show the people of the world a refreshing, progressive image of Africa.

Looks like my plans are back on track. Johannesburg, here I come!

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