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International Football Officials Say South Africa Will Be Ready for 2010 World Cup


Senior officials of international football (soccer) have been attending the Beijing Olympics, as part of their preparations for the next major international sporting event, the 2010 Football World Cup. The officials assure reporters that host nation South Africa is on schedule to stage the event. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from Beijing.

The head of the South African Organizing Committee for the Football World Cup, Danny Jordaan, Thursday said his country will be more than ready for the Cup, in two years.

"In terms of overall readiness, as of today the project is on track and we are happy with the project," he said.

Jordaan said all 10 stadiums being built or renovated for the World Cup are to be completed next year, at least six months before the World Cup kicks off in June, 2010.

Organizers are concerned about the rising cost of construction material - a worldwide phenomenon - but Jordaan says plans have been drawn up to address this challenge.

Officials also addressed concerns about security, saying the South African government has invested nearly $100 million in new equipment. And, the number of policemen is to be increased by more than 10 percent.

Secretary-General Jerome Valcke of the international football federation acknowledges that FIFA has a backup plan, should South Africa be unable to host World Cup matches. But he says this is primarily in case of unexpected catastrophes, such as natural disasters.

"For the time being, there is no 'red light' and the World Cup will take place in South Africa," Valcke said. "But we are, as any normal and good company, always adding an alternative, if something is happening."

Jordaan praised China's organization of the Olympic Games. He says the lesson he learned in Beijing was that the most important factor in the success of any major international competition is the conduct of local residents.

"You can have the best stadiums, the best buses," Jordaan noted. "At the end of the day, it is the people because they give content to the experience of the foreigners who come into the country. And, from that standpoint, I say China has done a wonderful job."

Officials say support for the World Cup in South Africa is strong, noting that 20,000 people applied to be volunteers - more than four times the number needed.

The South African government is spending more than $4 billion upgrading stadiums, transportation and communication networks. An estimated 400,000 foreigners are expected to attend the three-week event.

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