“The question of Plan B is dead,” says Danny Jordaan from a couch in his plush office at the 2010 Local Organising Committee (LOC) offices near Johannesburg’s Soccer City. “It was never real, anyway.”

The stadiums for the 2010 soccer World Cup will be built on time and over budget – though not by enough to warrant sleepless nights – and the money to pay for the event’s bills is already in the bank, thanks to a US$200m cheque from Fifa, owners of the quadrennial sporting showpiece.

The only question now is whether the fans, especially those from wealthy European countries, will come to SA in the numbers that have been predicted by the experts. These predictions, made before the global economy went into a tailspin, have been used as justification for the nearly R20bn (and climbing) being spent by national and local governments on 2010 projects such as stadiums and support infrastructure.

At this early stage, Jordaan is still confident that visitor numbers will justify the investment despite the parlous state of the global economy.

He admits the issue is of great concern, but he draws comfort from the fact that at present games in England, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy remain sold out. “When we see the fans not following their teams anymore we will know that they are feeling the pinch.”

He says that though the global economy must be monitored, die hard football fans are like whisky drinkers: “Even when prices go up, a good whisky is always a bargain.” That, and the fact that SA’s falling exchange rate makes the country a more affordable destination for tourists, should ensure that numbers remain solid, though this will be watched closely by the LOC.

The sentiment is not just wishful thinking from a man who will top SA’s most-hated list if “Africa’s World Cup” flops.

PUBLICATION: Financial Mail
AUTHOR: Quentin Wray
DATED: 19th December 2008