U.S. Vice President Joe Biden says it is fitting that South Africa is hosting the football World Cup because of its leadership in the international community. The vice president represented the U.S. government at the tournament's opening ceremony Friday.
Vice President Joe Biden congratulated South Africa for hosting the first football World Cup on African soil, during a gathering with South African leaders.
"This is truly historic," he said. "I mean, the first time [the World Cup is] in Africa and it's fitting that it's being held in South Africa, a leader on this continent and an inspiration, literally, an inspiration to people and nations around the world."
Biden attended the opening ceremonies at Johannesburg's Soccer City on Friday and watched the opening match between South Africa and Mexico. He was also due to attend the match between England and the United States on Saturday.
He expressed condolences to the family of former president Nelson Mandela. Mr. Mandela's 13-year-old great-granddaughter was killed in an automobile accident Thursday night.
The anti-apartheid icon was widely expected to attend the opening ceremonies but cancelled because of the tragedy.
Biden was President Barack Obama's running mate in the 2008 U.S. election. He arrived in South Africa after visits to Egypt and Kenya to recognize those governments' role in trying to bring peace to southern Sudan and stabilize Somalia.
While in South Africa, Biden met with former President Thabo Mbeki, who is currently mediating in Sudan, and other senior South African officials.
He praised the South African government for its diplomatic efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Zimbabwe, and he commended South Africa's commitment to nuclear non-proliferation, the climate-change treaty and the U.N. Human Rights Council.
"South Africa brings to the table a special moral authority that actually leverages [increases] your influence and your respect," he said.
Biden said relations between South Africa and the United States have never been better. Taking into account the two countries' recently established strategic dialogue, the U.S. vice president said the future promises even stronger ties between the two countries.