World soccer body will sponsor tours
Fifa is inviting the worldâ€™s journalists to the country, to show them how safe South Africa is as World Cup 2010 host.
Klaus said that journalists from America, Asia and Europe would be taken on Fifa-sponsored tours from next month.
â€œEurope and America have a perception of South Africa. And itâ€™s not the right perception,â€ said Klaus.
â€œThe media are also over-critical. We are sending foreign journalists to show them a beautiful country. We can help with perception â€” but the rest has to be done by South Africa.â€
Klaus, who is based at Fifaâ€™s headquarters in Switzerland, is in South Africa for a 10-day assessment tour of the countryâ€™s preparations.
His Fifa delegation is joined by the Local Organising Committee , government officials and other stakeholders. They want to tackle three issues: security, transport and energy â€” and Klaus was unapologetic about the challenges the country faces.
â€œSecurity is mentioned most. It has to be addressed. Itâ€™s especially an issue for those people who have a different opinion of this country,â€ said Klaus.
â€œTransportation also has to be explained to people . Energy is also important. We need to talk about the problems and it has to be addressed more openly. You canâ€™t look like youâ€™re not prepared as a country. You also need to improve your passport control at airports. It took me one and a half hours to get through the airport in Johannesburg,â€ he said.
Klaus said that the South African government is â€œassuring infrastructure and security and they want to go aheadâ€.
He said that Fifa president Sepp Blatter, who visited the country last month to observe its 2010 plans, was also upbeat.
â€œHe was really positive and I asked him if heâ€™s sure. And he said there really is progress.â€
The only hiccup for now is Port Elizabethâ€™s stadium, which will most likely not be ready for next yearâ€™s Fifa Confederations Cup â€” a tournament viewed as a trial run for the month-long World Cup. Klaus said its construction was â€œgoing slowâ€.
Delia Fischer, Fifaâ€™s local media officer, said 3500 journalists are expected at the Confederations Cup. She said that â€œinternational media companies are already setting up officesâ€ locally.
Participating national teams will know who they will face on November 22 when the Confederations Cup draw takes place in Johannesburg.
PUBLICATION: The Times
AUTHOR: Yazeed Kamaldien
DATED: 3rd October 2008