U.S. Has Tougher Qualifier Against Panama but Earns a Point
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My journey from Brooklyn, New York January 4, 2007 to the World Cup Final match July 11, 2010 in South Africa. How will I get there? I have no idea. Join me as I travel around Africa, write a book, make some friends and watch the beautiful game!
Satish C Sekar: When you were bidding for the World Cup, you said you wanted it to help promote South Africa. Since winning the bid, has the country benefited as you'd hoped?
Danny Jordaan: Absolutely. In 1990 Mandela walked out of prison and in '94 we had our first democratic elections and one of the things that we had to make sure of is that we wouldn't be forgotten by the international community. We wanted to ensure that South Africa must be discussed at the dinner and lunch tables of the big business companies of the world. We decided to follow a major event strategy. We hosted the Rugby World Cup in 1995, the African Cup of Nations in 1996, the 1998 World Athletics Championship, the 2002 Cricket World Cup, all in order to sustain a developing consciousness of a united nation in our country. We also had the cricket Twenty20 World Cup last year. We made a bid for the 2004 Olympics but lost out to Athens. We made a bid for the 2006 World Cup but lost out to Germany and now we are hosting 2010. That has achieved two things: firstly, South Africa was not forgotten after 1994; secondly and perhaps more importantly, through hosting all of those major events there was infrastructure improvement in our country ...
Just sporting infrastructure?
No. Airports have been expanded, hotels have been built, direct investment has increased and, of course, we've seen an 11% annual growth in tourism. Last year we went beyond seven million foreign tourists, so I think that through hosting major events we have been quite successful in keeping the focus on our country and developing South Africa because in most countries the period of liberation or democracy is followed by a decline in the infrastructure, especially those countries that went through the decolonisation process. In our case from 1990 to 2008 the infrastructure in our country has improved and investment has gone up.
In terms of the 2010 World Cup, are all the stadiums on schedule?
Yes. The main stadium, which will have a capacity of around 80,000 is set to be completed on time and on budget by October 2009 - although, in fact, it's currently running ahead of schedule. The ones that are being used for the 2009 Confederations Cup will be finished by the end of this year. All in all, we're building five new ones, upgrading one and have four others. The total cost of the stadiums, transport and other infrastructure is 15bn Rand [£1.02bn].
What's going to happen to the stadiums after the World Cup?
One of the advantages we have in our country is that rugby and cricket are big sports, so between football, rugby and cricket I think that use of the stadiums will ensure that the stadiums are commercially viable. We are looking to see how we can share the facilities. Football itself is not strong enough
One of the biggest concerns potential visitors have ahead of 2010 is the South African crime rate. How are you going to ensure fans are safe?
If crime is so high in our country, how do you explain the fact that there were seven million tourists last year? How do you explain the fact that every aircraft to Johannesburg from London is full?
So there's no real security problem in South Africa?
We have crime, but so do you in Moss Side in Manchester, in Leeds and other places we read about. There is crime everywhere. If somebody can tell me that there is no crime in London, then at least we have discovered the British path to heaven. But we have also showed that it is safe in South Africa. The England soccer team played there. The England rugby team came to play here. Why would it be different if two million come for a tournament like the World Cup? Why? I cannot understand that. We just hosted the Twenty/20 World Cup. Manchester United came to South Africa. Barcelona was here last year. Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Holland, Sweden and Denmark have all played here. I don't know why we can have all of these major internationals here but somehow somebody knows it's not going to be safe. Yes, we have crime. There are socio-economic challenges - the lack of housing, education, etc, but we are dealing with those things. We are safe.
South Africans are presumably very excited about hosting the World Cup -are you going to ensure ticket prices are accessible for most of them?
The cheapest tickets in Korea were $50US; in Germany they were $US26. The cheapest ticket in 2010 will be US$20 - that category will be for South Africans.
How much will equivalent tickets cost for, say, England fans?
We've approached the federation about this. It seems to us that if you just sell tickets, then you have people arriving in the country with no one to take care of them, so if you want to have good organisation, then the travel agents should meet their guests, take them to the hotel and make sure that arrangements are taken care of. I've been talking to travel agents to look at the prices - but what's for sure is that they won't be able to buy the cheap category of tickets.
How will you stop them buying the cheap tickets off South Africans?
I don't want to go into details but we have procedures in place to stop that.
Finally, then, what do you think would constitute South African success on the pitch? An African team must get to the final of the World Cup at least. African teams have never got to a semi-final before. All African teams must at least reach the second round - all six of them, and we should have at least two in the last four. That requires a lot of preparation and a lot of planning.
So you think an African country can become world champions in 2010?
I think so, even though they will be tired. The African Cup of Nations will be in January and February and then the players will have to go back their clubs until around May and at the end of May and the World Cup will start on June 11. I think some of the countries will need to take a decision about which to prioritise - the ACN or the World Cup - because otherwise they may face burn-out.