South Africa’s preparations for the 2010 FIFA World Cup were continuing to progress well, and the Local Organising Committee (LOC) said it was confident that the economic downturn would not affect foreigners’ decision to attend the tournament.

2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee chief communications officer Rich Mkhondo said on Monday that construction on all ten stadiums to be used for the football event was continuing and that these projects would be completed before the end of 2009.

He also downplayed suggestions that the economic downturn could have a major impact on the number of visitors coming to South Africa for the World Cup.

“The FIFA World Cup is a once-in-a-lifetime event that people save for for many years. With the fanaticism of football fans around the world, we do not expect a major drop in visitor numbers,” he commented.

Last month, a survey by market research company African Response showed that the majority of South Africans believed that the global economic crisis would lead to fewer-than-expected visitors during the World Cup.

Mkhondo noted that visitors would have fewer dollars to spend, however, with the weakening of the rand, South Africa has also become a more affordable destination for “cash-strapped” tourists.

Commenting on the impact of neighbouring Zimbabwe’s cholera crisis and economic and political instability on the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Mkhondo said that the LOC did not believe that visitors would feel threatened by the events taking place in that country.

“We do not envisage [these events] having any direct impact on South Africa’s ability to host the World Cup or on its ability to guarantee the safety and health of visitors to the country.”

An analyst with the Efficient Group, Fanie Joubert, agreed that neither the economic turmoil, nor the events in Zimbabwe, would prevent tourists from attending the World Cup.

However, he said that tourists likely would not visit all the tourist attractions they formerly would have, either because they would not be able to afford to, or because of the fear of health threats such as cholera.

CONSTRUCTION ON SCHEDULE

Meanwhile, the LOC assured the country that all the stadiums to be used in the Confederations Cup, which would take place in June this year, and which was considered a test of the readiness of a World Cup host country, would be ready on time.

All the major refurbishments to the Ellis Park stadium, in Johannesburg, the Loftus Versfeld stadium, in Tshwane, the Free State stadium, in Bloemfontein, and the Royal Bafokeng stadium, in Rustenburg, have been completed.

The host cities were now focusing on the final cosmetic upgrades, as well as putting the final touches on the pitches and on the precinct and infrastructure.

“All the stadiums are on track to be completed in good time and well ahead of the tournament,” commented Mkhondo.

These four stadiums would also be used in the World Cup in 2010.

A further five stadiums would be completed by the end of October, while the 68 000-seater Green Point stadium, in Cape Town, would be handed over to FIFA only in December this year.

Construction work at the Mbombela stadium, in Nelspruit, was still on schedule despite a recent storm causing damage to some parts of the stadium.

A severe storm had passed through the area early in January, which caused a crane being used in the construction of the stadium to fall onto the northern stand area of the stadium.

“Although most of the damage occurred to the crane, there was some minor damage done to the stadium with ten precast seating beams and one roof bay bearing the brunt of the damage. There was also some superfluous concrete damage on the upper deck,” explained Mkhondo.

Nevertheless, he noted that this would not delay the construction of the 42 000-seater stadium, as the repairs would be done while construction continued.

The stadium was already about 60% completed.

Meanwhile, construction at the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium, in Port Elizabeth, was about 70% completed, while construction at the Soccer City stadium, in Johannesburg, was 67% completed.

The roof of the Soccer City stadium was about 90% completed, with the installation of cladding also having started.

Further, the Peter Mokaba stadium, in Polokwane, was about 60% completed, said the LOC, with the precinct and infrastructure projects, as well as the appointment of subcontractors, progressing well.

Construction at the 70 000-seater Moses Mabhida stadium, in Durban, was now about 65% completed. The LOC noted that the procurement of subcontractors would soon be finalised.

Construction at the Green Point stadium had reached the halfway mark, with the procurement of subcontractors remaining “on track”.

The planning of the precinct projects had also been completed, said Mkhondo.

PUBLICATION: Engineering News Online
AUTHOR: Chanel Pringle
DATED: 12th January 2009