2010: FIFA happy with SA’s progress

A delegation of FIFA officials expressed satisfaction this week with South Africa’s preparations for the 2010 World Cup, a turn around from concerns the soccer organization had that it wasn’t seeing enough progress.

FIFA declared this week that South Africa had made more rapid progress than their German predecessors had.

“FIFA is very happy and satisfied with the progress made,” said Horst Schmidt, who is to take up a new post as FIFA’s coordinator in South Africa.

“Not only is the country on time, but a bit ahead of Germany at the same time,” said the German, who was one of the driving forces behind this year’s tournament in his homeland. “We are happy with preparations and now it’s for the Local organising committee to maintain the momentum.”

Concerns that construction work was not going to be done in time were raised by FIFA President Joseph Blatter and in September a delegation went to South African to urge lawmakers to speed up building work.

South Africa has faced international scrutiny anticipated over whether it would be able to pull together the tournament, with problems such as ensuring the personal safety of some 40,000 visitors. Questions were also raised over whether stadiums and transport infrastructure will be constructed in time.

A visiting FIFA delegation met with South African President Thabo Mbeki to make sure that progress was being made. The president assured the delegation that he hoped the work in South Africa would get underway before the end of the year.

In September, both the United States and Australia were reported to be potential hosts should organizers decide a change of venue was needed.

Schmidt was part of a delegation, which also included FIFA general secretary Urs Linsi and marketing director Jerome Valcke, that has been briefed since the start of the week on preparations for the first World Cup to be held in Africa.

Schmidt told reporters that the focus was on the progress being made on building and upgrading the 10 stadiums that are to host the tournament’s matches.

“After evaluating the plans for the construction of the stadiums, we were satisfied that there is enough time to construct, equip, and test the stadiums before the day of the kick-off,” he said. “The task ahead becomes very clear.”

The delegation’s verdict after the visit serves as a significant boost to the local organizers after the concerns expressed by Blatter.

Irvin Khoza, chairman of the local organizing committee said he was happy with “FIFA’s vote of confidence.”

“The schedule will be met as proposed and come the first quarter of next year, construction must start,” he said at a press conference in Johannesburg.

Mbeki pledged last month that South Africa would confound international skeptics by meeting its deadlines and staging a well-oiled World Cup.

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