Johannesburg, South Africa — World Cup organizers want to reassure soccer fans that they will be safe at the 2010 tournament.

Senior government, police and sports officials said Saturday that South Africa is beefing up police numbers and training, investing in high-tech equipment and crime-busting surveillance. It’s intended to combat crime and threats from hooligans and terrorists.

The police plan to spend US$64 million on the deployment of 41,000 officers for the World Cup.

“This country can deliver a safe and secure World Cup,” South African organizing chief Danny Jordaan said before the draw for the Confederations Cup, a dress rehearsal for 2010. “This is a serious issue that we have taken seriously from Day 1. Our track record is equal to any in the world.”

Jordaan said there haven’t been any problems during large international events in South Africa since multiparty democracy in 1994.

Deputy police commissioner Andre Pruis said the majority of crimes were concentrated in fairly small areas. Overall, crime had steadily fallen in the past few years, he said.

Officials plan to spend an additional $66 million on equipment such as helicopters, unmanned aircraft, border controls, crowd-control equipment and specialized body armour.

There will be 10 mobile command centres at match venues with high-tech monitoring equipment.

South African police will be assisted by an anti-hooligan unit from Interpol, and have already started working with British authorities given their experience with violent fans. Twenty police officers from the 32 nations that qualify also will be in South Africa to spot potential troublemakers.

Unlike Europe, South Africa does not have problems with hooliganism, and rival fans mingle harmoniously on the terraces and on the streets afterward.

The terrorism threat is also deemed to be lower in South Africa than many other parts of the world, though Pruis said a post 9/11 contingency plan was in place. Authorities have rehearsed no-fly zones and anti-hijack operations in the skies above host cities.

Jordaan said police reinforcements to protect the anticipated 450,000 international visitors will be in place two weeks before and two weeks after the June-July event.

PUBLICATION: The Canadian Press
DATED: 23rd November 2008