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Johannesburg Officials Say More World Cup Fans Than Expected Visiting City

  • Jeff Swicord

Tourists shop in Johannesburg, South Africa

Tourists shop in Johannesburg, South Africa

As the World Cup moves into its third week, Johannesburg city officials, business owners and fans say they are pleased with its performance as a host city. More than 350,000 fans are expected to visit South Africa, and Johannesburg's two World Cup stadiums will host 15 of the 64 matches.

Half way through the 2010 World Cup Johannesburg, officials are pleased with the way things are going. Over half of the more than 350,000 visitors to South Africa are expected to stay in the Johannesburg area.

"We actually believe that because of our strategic position, an hour from Rustenburg, 30 minutes from Tshwane, [Pretoria] and less than five hours from voth Bombela and Polokwane, we actually attracted huge amounts of stay within the city of Johannesburg and everyone is commuting out of Johannesburg to those games," said Sibongile Mazibuko, executive director of 2010 For The City of Johannesburg.

South Africa spent billions of dollars on new stadiums, roads, and other infrastructure to host the World Cup. Still, fewer fans are expected to attend than the 2006 Cup in Germany. Many blame the global economic downturn, the country's distance from Europe and security concerns.

Sergio Martinez and his friends traveled from Spain, despite their concerns about safety.

"We expected more problems because we hear on the TV in Spain for example, we hear a lot about the security for example," said Martinez. "So we arrive here and we are a little frightened about what we are going to see here, but at the moment, we haven't got any problem."

Many fans, like Mike Bradley and his friends from Canada, drive to matches in different cities. Despite road improvements, they found conditions unpredictable while driving from Cape Town to Johannesburg.

"Yeah, actually our first day we hit a massive pot hole, where you could basically fit me into. And I think we lost two or three tires that we had to replace. But since then it has been great," said Bradley.

Many business owners are pleased with the boost the World Cup is giving Johannesburg. The suburb of Melville is known for its restaurants and bars.

Shakir, the owner of Wish, a restaurant and bar, made about $25,000 in renovations for the World Cup. He says his profit from this month should pay off that investment.

"Yeah, we put a lot of money into the place. We got the place fully compliant as in smoking, non-smoking. Televisions, we did our courtyard, we covered the roofs. Got an extracting roof there; it slides back and forth," explained Shakir.

Simonetta Bravi owns the The Art Room gallery. She installed a collection from local artists with a World Cup theme. In the past few weeks, sales to customers coming in off the street have risen 40 percent or more. Americans are the biggest buyers.

"We have been selling wonderfully, they love the local art. So for me the World Cup is such a huge bonus for our country," said Bravi. "That I can't see [how] people cannot benefit from just the excitement and the wonderful atmosphere."

City officials expect to continue to reap rewards after the World Cup. They see the Cup as an image builder, a way to get the word out that South Africa is an interesting and safe place to visit.

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