Interesting article in today's New York Times about Danny Jordaan, South Africa's World Cup chief organizer.
Jordaan flew into New York for meetings this week and happened to land here right as the United States was electing their first African-American President, Barack Obama.
Considering South Africa's delicate history with race and apartheid, it was an interesting time for Jordaan to be in New York.
According to the article, Obama's election reminded him of the time South African Nelson Mandela was let out of prison in 1990.
It was a strange evening to be landing in New York. Jordaan, the chairman of the South African committee that will stage the World Cup of soccer in 2010, watched the celebration on CNN and compared the mood in America to the mood in South Africa on Feb. 11, 1990, the day Nelson Mandela walked out of prison after 27 years. “The majority celebrated,” recalled Jordaan, who had worked against apartheid without going to prison or into exile. “But many people did not celebrate,” he recalled. “You have to be magnanimous.”Obama has long expressed his respect for Mandela, saying he had been inspired by a visit to Mandela’s former prison cell on Robben Island. In turn, Mandela sent a message to Obama on Wednesday, saying, in part, “Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place.”While much of the world sees Obama's victory as a new symbol of hope, a successful 2010 World Cup in South Africa would be equally satisfying to many.
Jordaan is assuring people that everything will be ready in approximately 600 days' time.
South Africa will be fine. Obama will do great things. And in 2010, the world will have something else to celebrate: the wonderful experience of an African World Cup ...
Joseph S. Blatter, the president of FIFA, once mentioned a Plan B for the World Cup, then amended his remarks to say they referred only to natural disaster. But Jordaan knows there is skepticism about the stadiums, the hotels, the transportation, the security.
Just about every major sports tournament around the world is dogged by tardiness, incompetence, graft, repression, you name it. The tear gas from civil unrest had barely been cleared before the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, and they were a success. The trolley lines and expressways had barely been opened in Athens in time for the 2004 Summer Games.
“And we finished half an hour before the first game,” Sunil Gulati, the president of the United States Soccer Federation, said about the 1994 World Cup in the U.S.But a tournament for 32 national teams, including the woeful national team of South Africa, automatically invited as host, is a huge task from a nation still only 14 years past gigantic change. A caretaker government is in charge at the moment, awaiting a new election in 2009, but Jordaan suavely noted that Germany had a change of parties as well as chancellors shortly before the highly successful 2006 World Cup.