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South Africa Ready for World Cup Kick-Off

With one month to go before the kick-off of the football (soccer) World Cup in South Africa, organizers say they are pleased with the preparations.

The head of South Africa's Organizing Committee, Danny Jordaan, took pride in noting Sunday that South Africa had completed all of the 10 stadiums that will host the World Cup's 64 matches.

"What we have created is wonderful infrastructure and the basis, really, to take South African football to a different level," said Jordaan.

Jordaan said he hoped the $2 billion worth of physical improvements to South African football would have the same effect on the national team, which he acknowledged has experienced problems with its offense.

Football's governing body, FIFA, praised the organizers. Secretary-General Jerome Valke denied reports in some news media that FIFA had ever considered moving the event.

"There was never, never a single time where FIFA thought about moving or removing this World Cup from South Africa to another country," said Valke.

The South African government has also spent an estimated $2 billion improving transportation.

President Jacob Zuma Saturday inaugurated the country's newest international airport, 35-kilometers north of Durban. He said it came as the country prepared to experience, what he called, the largest wave of aviation traffic in its history.

"We are thrilled by the fact that we are able to present the World Cup in a South Africa that is going through a huge building and reconstruction phase," said the president.

Durban's new King Shaka International Airport and Dube Trade Port, north of Durban, 10 May 10
Durban's new King Shaka International Airport and Dube Trade Port, north of Durban, 10 May 10

The billion-dollar facility can handle more than seven-million passengers and 50,000 tons of cargo a year. Mr. Zuma said it would support economic growth in the region for decades to come.

Capacity has also been nearly doubled at airports in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth.

The country's road network is also receiving extensive upgrades. And the government has spent more than $100 million on improving security, including dedicating 40,000 police officers to World Cup events.

Officials say the expenditures, though criticized by some, have created tens of thousands of jobs and have shielded the economy from the worst effects of the global recession.

The events occurred as Durban hosted the country's annual tourism convention.

Some of the 15,000 exhibitors said their businesses had benefited from the World Cup, while others said they had not. But the majority said the tournament would have a positive long-term effect by boosting South Africa's image as a world-class tourist destination.