A weekend of celebration is over in South Africa after the country won the right to host the 2010 soccer World Cup. Now, soccer and tourism officials are gearing up for six years of hard work to make sure the tournament is a success.
The wild celebrations have finally died down, and South Africans are getting down to business, preparing to host the world's largest sporting event. They might have another six years to get ready, but soccer and tourism officials are wasting no time.
South Africa has successfully hosted major international conferences as well as the rugby and cricket World Cups, but nothing on the scale of the soccer tournament, which will last for a month and involve teams from dozens of countries.
Before voting on the 2010 host, the world soccer governing body, FIFA, published a report evaluating the readiness of the five nations vying for the right to organize the tournament. The report said South Africa was the only one ready to host right now. Even so, there is still work to be done before 2010.
Soccer correspondent Jermaine Craig of The Star newspaper in Johannesburg has covered many international sporting events, including the Sydney Olympics. He says some of South Africa's soccer stadiums need upgrading.
?One of the main factors, I would think, is just looking at the stadiums themselves. There is quite a few of them that need refurbishing in order to get them in line with international standards. And also, just parking has been a major problem at big games. They have got to get a proper parking system as well, getting people in and out of stadiums,? Mr. Craig said.
Mr. Craig also says South Africa needs a better mass transit system, such as trains or buses to get people to and from the venues without using their cars. And, he says, the ticket sales and overall organization will need work as well.
In addition to the sporting infrastructure, South Africa has to get ready for the hundreds of thousands of soccer fans expected to descend on the country. Those visitors will need hotel rooms and rental cars.
The chief operating officer of South African Tourism is Moeketsi Mosola, who says one of the biggest challenges will be improving the standard of customer service.
?I think it is quite important to recognize that even the FIFA technical report itself says the major infrastructure, insofar as telecommunication, roads and hotel accommodation, is in place,? Mr. Mosola said. ?What needs to be happening is in the next few years we are going to start to see some upgrades. The critical challenge, however, is really on the human resources side, where we are going to have to go on a massive skilling basis (training program)+, in terms of improving the quality of the service to make sure we are able to match those that are offered at the world level.?
Both Mr. Mosola and the sports journalist, Mr. Craig, agree that South Africa has the ability to host a fantastic World Cup. South African soccer officials say they want to draw on the expertise and energy of not just locals, but of other African nations as well, to make it a truly excellent and truly African tournament.