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World Cup Focus Shifts to 2010 Host, South Africa

As the 2006 World Cup comes to a close with Italy’s 5-3 victory in penalty kicks over France, South African organizers of World Cup 2010 are preparing for Africa’s first World Cup. Coordinators hope it will live up to the standards set by this year’s host Germany and other predecessors.

On Friday night, South African President Thabo Mbeki hosted a gala at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate to launch preparations for the 2010 World Cup. He was joined by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, FIFA President Sepp Blatter, and Franz Beckenbauer, Germany’s event coordinator for this year’s events. Former South African President Nelson Mandela sent a video greeting to the crowd. Several African football stars were on hand as well, including Liberia’s George Weah, Cameroon’s Roger Milla, and Abede Pele of Ghana. Also in attendance were African musicians assembled by Youssou N’Dour and prominent members of the hip-hop community.

Voice of America French to Africa reporter Nelly Daynac, who has been covering World Cup 2006 spoke with English to Africa reporter Howard Lesser saying that overall, press criticism has been tempered by the optimism of the organizers.

“There have been critics as to what the South Africans have been doing so far in terms of building the infrastructure and the transportation system. Obviously, they are not quite ready, but they’re saying that they are very optimistic, and for now, they have four or five stadiums available. But of course, they have four years to build five more because they are thinking of coming up with a total of ten stadiums by 2010. Now the main question remains the transportation system. They have to build more railways, more highways, and sometimes, it’s quite hard to go from one city to another.”

Daynac says the two main concerns are crowd control following matches and the high crime rate of South Africa. Coordinators and security experts are working on both issues to make international visitors feel welcome.

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