The man steering 2010 preparations is positive everything’s on track, writes Aspasia Karras.

Monday will mark 500 days to the kickoff of the 2010 soccer World Cup. It’s a milestone that could, understandably, strike angst into the heart of the chief executive of the tournament’s organising committee.

Factors beyond his control, like the global economic crisis and the impending elections, could have great repercussions on the best-laid plans. But Danny Jordaan is calm.

“I’m okay, I’m fine,” he affirms from a strategic breakaway with his colleagues in Limpopo.

“We know that the challenge for 2009 is immense, but we are in good shape. This year we have to do two things: deliver the Confederations Cup and the final draw in December in Cape Town”.

He sounds remarkably collected. It could be an artificial state of calm induced by sightings of the Big Five, but I am guessing that this measured response is a key part of Jordaan’s psychological make-up.

He gives the impression of being a methodical man; steady hand Dan, someone who rolls with the punches and perseveres in his complex administrative task.

“We have to deal with the increased costs over the last year, the credit crunch has had an effect … some of the elements for the stadiums are purchased overseas, but this is balanced out as our revenue is dollar-based, so we have had a forex gain,” he explains.

“I am satisfied with the progress made with the Gautrain and the airports, and have you seen the pictures of the stadiums?” he asks.
“They are coming along nicely. Durban has completed the arch, in Port Elizabeth all the seats are in and Soccer City [in Soweto] is a third of the way through installing the roof trusses.”

One gets the sense that the entire project is laid out on a gigantic mobile spreadsheet in his head.
“I think for any event organiser there are different phases: planning, gathering of resources, making sure the infrastructure is in place. The last phase is operational: working out the logistics required when the people arrive.”

Does he sleep at night?

“I sleep at night,” he answers laconically. “If you are going to stay awake through problems, you had better stay awake and resolve them. So far we have done well, we are in a good space. The fact that we are selling tickets for the Confederation Cup speaks for itself. We are in a comfortable position,” says Jordaan.

“Plan B is dead now. No one talks about plan B anymore. I was just in Portugal meeting with the media and the overall response is very positive.”
So what is the worst that can happen now?

“We have a few challenges and we need to keep focus on the economic crisis and anticipate the national elections. We have to deal with changes in key portfolios that we deal with — transport, safety and security, home affairs, health, finance, foreign affairs, provincial and local government.”

Speaking of elections, I wonder if he and his team watched the Obama inauguration from Limpopo. “We managed to get a sight of Obama. I was in New York on the day he was elected,” Jordaan says almost gleefully.

“His election provides the possibility for new relationships. What we want with 2010 is to strengthen the overall image of the continent, but we have many challenges, including our neighbour, Zimbabwe. Having someone with an African father sitting in the White House gives us a greater possibility to deal with these challenges.

“To dream about these things and turn it into a reality,” he muses and naturally segues into 2010 talk, “ is the same as the dream of hosting the World Cup. You know, I have been on this job since 1994 when we went to the Fifa congress. In fact, it was in Chicago, Illinois, our dream and hope started, just like Obama’s.”
Heady stuff.

One of the outcomes of 2010 he envisions is greater social cohesion for South Africa: “I hope the World Cup will help with nation building and strengthen nonracialism and unity.”

I ask Jordaan who could possibly play the unifying role Nelson Mandela did for the 1995 rugby World Cup .

“‘Very often when a country goes into war the generals are not known, but recognised leaders emerge in the course of the battle. Once elections are over, I think that this leader will naturally emerge. People will remember the contribution of Nelson Mandela.

“We need the unity of a shared vision, a hope and dream for the country. We need to unite on the basis that we are South Africans and love the country and seek progress. You can’t love the country and not love the people.”

DATED: 23rd January 2009