The battle fields upon which the world’s top soccer stars will meet for the 2010 FIFA World Cup are speedily nearing completion, says the Local Organising Committee, with all 10 stadiums due to be ready by the end of this year.

The 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, a tournament which is considered to be the dress rehearsal for World Cup host countries, hits SA’s shores in just five months. Four venues selected for the “Festival of Champions” will be ready to welcome the competing teams.

“With regards to the Confederations Cup, all the stadiums are on track to be completed in good time and well ahead of the tournament,” according to LOC Chief Communications Officer Rich Mkhondo.

All major refurbishments to the Confederations Cup stadiums – the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg and Ellis Park in Johannesburg – have been completed. The focus now is on final touches including pitches, final cosmetic upgrades and on precinct infrastructure upgrades, says the LOC.

A further five stadiums are on track to be completed by October 30th 2009 with Green Point Stadium scheduled for completion in December 2009.

According to the LOC, the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium which is no longer a Confederations Cup venue is now 70% complete and is well on track for its October deadline.

Johannesburg’s Soccer City Stadium, which will host both the opening and closing ceremonies of the World Cup tournament, is 67% complete, with significant progress having been made on the roof which is now 90% complete.

A recent storm in Nelspruit on the 4th of January resulted in some minor damage to the Mbombela Stadium, affecting 10 precast seating beams and one roof bay. However the LOC says that the damage will not delay completion of the project. The stadium is now 60% complete, as are the Peter Mokaba (Polokwane), and Moses Mabhida (Durban) Stadiums.

Cape Town’s Green Point Stadium is said to be progressing well and has reached its halfway mark.

Referring to the global economic crisis, Rich Mkhondo believes that people will still attend the world the FIFA World Cup despite the economy.

“We do not expect the economic downturn to have a major impact on the number of visitors to South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Although visitors will have fewer dollars to spend, those dollars will buy them more rands … making the country an even more affordable destination for cash-strapped tourists.”

DATED: 13th January 2009