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Countdown to Soccer World Cup Reaches 500 Days


In South Africa, sports officials are holding a series of events as the countdown reaches 500 days until the first soccer World Cup to be held in Africa.

With 500 days left until the 2010 soccer World Cup, the nine South African cities hosting matches for the football tournament Monday unveiled their official World Cup posters in Bloemfontein, the capital of central Free State province.

The head of South Africa's Organizing Committee, Danny Jordaan, said officials are holding activities in different parts of the country to build anticipation for the world's most watched sporting event.

"The cities decided that we should move our activities to give each city an opportunity so we are there starting with a schools program," said Danny Jordaan. "The province of the Free State adopted Italy so the Italian embassy will have various programs and they will focus their attention on the youth."

Sepp Blatter, the head of football's world governing body-FIFA - says he expects South Africa to be ready for the cup but that what is needed is greater public enthusiasm for the event.

The South African government is building or refurbishing the ten stadiums to be used for World Cup matches. Officials say, despite construction delays and escalating costs, all ten stadiums will be completed by the end of this year.

Cape Town's World Cup spokesman, Pieter Cronje, said although his city's stadium was the last to begin construction it, too, will be completed on time.

"It's on program," said Pieter Cronje. "So we will finish by the 14th of December and at the end of October we'll be able to hand over the stadium to FIFA so that they can install whatever is needed for the tournament."

The South African government is upgrading roads, airports and mass transit systems in preparation for the event which is expected to draw some 400,000 foreign visitors.

Officials say two-thirds of the 55,000 rooms required by FIFA have been contracted and some tickets have already been sold through tour companies.

In an effort to boost security, the government is hiring an additional 55,000 police officers, boosting the force by 15 percent.

And some 40,000 people have volunteered to help out at the event, 10 times the number needed.

The tournament is to open on June 11 next year with a match in Johannesburg between current title holder, Italy, and South Africa.

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