South African President Jacob Zuma says his country is ready for the football World Cup, and predicts a memorable event. He was speaking during ceremonies 50 days before the tournament kicks-off on June 11.
President Jacob Zuma told a crowd of fans in the central city of Kimberly that the football World Cup will allow South Africa to tell the story of a continent alive with possibilities, whose population embraces people from other nations and cultures.
"This is the single, greatest opportunity we have ever had to showcase our diversity and potential to the world," said President Zuma.
Mr. Zuma said his government had spent nearly $5 billion on bolstering infrastructure for the World Cup and this would benefit the country for years to come.
He said the preparations already have had a significant impact on the South African economy. Officials hope the World Cup will create 60,000 permanent new jobs and add nearly one billion dollars to economic production.
Mr. Zuma said now is the time for all South Africans to take ownership of the event and create the conditions for its success.
"We are ready in every respect and I believe that our warmth, our South African-ness is going to be displayed," said Mr. Zuma. "We are going to be a nation that will behave, that will show the world that we are ready to host and that Africa is ready."
With seven weeks to go until kick-off, construction has been completed on all of the 10 stadiums that will host World Cup matches.
The new terminal at Johannesburg's international airport was inaugurated Tuesday and a new airport at the southeastern city of Durban, is to be inaugurated in two weeks.
South African security forces say they have been carrying out crowd control and anti-terrorism training and measures have been put in place to protect visiting teams, foreign dignitaries and fans.
Police officials have assigned 40,000 officers specifically to World Cup events and say they have spent $180 million on new equipment.
The football world governing body, FIFA, says 180,000 of the remaining 500,000 match tickets have been sold since the last phase of ticket sales began last week. Nearly half of the 64 matches are sold out.
Tourist groups say the world economic recession and the long-haul-destination status of South Africa may affect the number of foreign visitors during the event and have downgraded their original projections of 450,000 by as much as one-third.
As a result, 85 percent of the fans at the games will be South African residents. United States residents have purchased the greatest number of tickets from abroad, more than 100,000, followed by fans in Britain and Germany.