The South African ambassador to Turkey, Tebogo Seokolo, and the president of the Turkish Soccer Federation (TFF), Mahmut Özgener, will host a function at Ä°stanbul’s Swissôtel today to showcase the readiness of South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

South Africa has been preparing for the soccer event of 2010 from the very moment it was awarded the rights to host the tournament in May 2004.

Though South Africa had bid for the World Cup previously, this is the first time the tournament is going to be staged in an African country. Ambassador Seokolo told Sunday’s Zaman that his country welcomed the decision in 2004 with humility. “The South African response was this: ‘Thank you; we will do this on behalf not of South Africa, but of the whole African continent’,” Seokolo said. In accordance with this humility, South Africa is trying to make sure that other African countries are going to benefit from this event also.

South Africa has also secured a unique agreement with FIFA. For the first time in FIFA’s history, the world soccer governing body is contracting non-hotel accommodation, such as national parks, bed and breakfasts, lodges and guesthouses. In this way, the benefits of the tournament will be spread beyond the cities where the matches are played — and small business establishments will also benefit. This also means that international visitors will have the opportunity to enjoy the exciting sites of South Africa.

The 2010 World Cup will be the first to be broadcast in high-definition television. This means multiplied satisfaction for the viewers, but also multiplied investment for the South African government. The government already has plans of launching at least one high-definition television satellite channel in time for the World Cup and the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which is the official 2010 World Cup broadcaster, will have six more high-definition units in place by the end of 2009.

South Africa has already completed many of its projects for the tournament. Ambassador Seokolo gives detailed statistics for what has already been done. Just the fact that as of February 2008, the South African government’s contributions to World Cup-related projects was about $2.8 billion is telling. The bulk of this money has gone toward the construction work on four brand new, state of the art stadiums in four cities: Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay, Nelspruit and Polokwane. Another piece of evidence to support the readiness of South Africa is a recent statement by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, who said, “There is no B-plan.” “South Africa is also hosting the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. This will be both a test of our readiness and it will give us the chance to show the world that South Africa is ready a year ahead of the 2010 World Cup,” Ambassador Seokolo told Sunday’s Zaman.

According to the South African ambassador, the World Cup is going to present another opportunity for his country: “It is an opportunity to bury the legacy of our apartheid past and use sport to unify not only South Africans of different racial groups, but also to unify South Africans and the rest of the Africans from beyond our borders.”

Ambassador Seokolo is aware that many potential tourists are being warned against going to the World Cup in South Africa because of the perceived levels of crime in his country. “In this regard, we wish to assure all soccer fans and tourists in general that South Africa has a proven track record in managing major international events,” Seokolo said. South Africa has previously hosted several major international events, including the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the Rugby World Cup and the Cricket World Cup.

DATED: 26th April 2009