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South Africa marks 100-day countdown to tournament start

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-03-02

With exactly 100 days to go before the World Cup kicks off on African soil in South Africa, FIFA president Sepp Blatter (photo) said that he had "no doubt" that the country was ready to host it.

AFP - FIFA on Tuesday brushed aside lingering doubts about South Africa's readiness for the World Cup, as cities across the nation staged dance parties and celebrations to launch the 100-day countdown.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter insisted the country was ready to host Africa's first World Cup, which kicks off June 11, and said he was bothered by naysayers who worry South Africa won't pull it off.
"It's not so much that there's pessimism, but that it's always being thrown into doubt. It's bad, because when there's doubt, there's no confidence. For me and FIFA, that bothers us sometimes," Blatter told a news conference in Durban's new stadium.
"There is no doubt, no doubt," he said. "Let's go now, let's have this World Cup, and then we will discuss end of July."
He spoke after a tour of South Africa's 10 stadiums that will host the month-long tournament. Construction is complete at all the stadiums, and only two have yet to host games to try out the new facilities.
"We are on track, we are ready to make this World Cup and this is the main message following this inspection tour," FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said.
The 100-day countdown dominated South African media Tuesday, with celebrations planned in all the country's main cities.
Schoolchildren were invited to ditch their uniforms for football jerseys, while Johannesburg planned a street party in the Sandton business district to teach people the "diski" -- a dance inspired by football moves that is the centrepiece of the country's marketing campaign.
Durban was deploying teams to taxi ranks and train stations across the city to pass out 100-day badges, while in front of City Hall a pile of 100 footballs was set out, with one to be given away each day until June 11.
South Africa has poured 33 billion rand (3.9 billion dollars, 3.2 billion euros) into preparations for the tournament.
In addition to the stadiums, major upgrades to airports in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Bloemfontein are complete, while Durban's new airport is set to open on May 1.
FIFA says that 2.2 of the 2.9 million tickets have already been sold, even though fewer foreign fans are expected to attend.
South Africa is banking on 450,000 foreign visitors, though the actual number could be lower, with many fans overseas still recovering from the shock of the global recession.
The country is seizing the publicity around the 100-day to try to reassure fans about visiting South Africa, especially about security in a nation with one of the highest crime rates in the world, averaging 50 murders each day.
South Africa has spent more than 2.4 billion rand on security, recruiting 41,000 additional police and buying hi-tech equipment for the competition.
Overall, South Africans are increasingly optimistic about the World Cup. A survey out on Monday found that 85 percent believe the nation will ready for the games.
The public was less rosy about the chances about the hot-and-cold fortunes of Bafana Bafana - only 55 percent said they thought the team was ready to compete.


Date created : 2010-03-02