World soccer’s governing body warned the South African organizers of the 2010 World Cup that “a single day” cannot be lost if the world’s most watched sporting event is to be ready on time.

“There’s nothing that we’re late for, but there’s nowhere where we’re ready,” Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s general secretary, said in an interview in Johannesburg, where the competition’s final will be played in July 2010. “What we have to make sure is that we keep all this work on track and we don’t lose a single day because we have no time.”

Valcke presided over the draw two days ago for next year’s Confederation’s Cup, a dress rehearsal for the 32-nation World Cup. Work at the ten stadiums continues amid rising costs as the value of South African rand declines against the dollar. Earlier this month, the country’s government pledged a further $140 million to fund overruns in construction costs.

South Africa’s currency has fallen as much as 30 percent against the dollar as the U.S. and much of Europe face biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression.

“I would not say we are safe but we are not too much in trouble with this financial crisis,” Valcke said. “If we had been at the starting point of working on the World Cup, I think it would be an issue for the country.”

Strikes at several stadiums have also added to costs and delayed construction. The government may spend as much as 12 billion rand ($1.5 billion) to build five stadiums and upgrade five others.

20 Percent Worries

“I would say 80 percent of the work is done,” Valcke said. “The remaining 20 percent though is the one that makes the difference. The remaining 20 percent is the one where you say, ‘Oh God! The stadium is no longer under construction.’”

South Africa won the right in 2004 to host the tournament, which has never been held in Africa. The country beat out Morocco and Egypt.

Organizers are anticipating 450,000 visitors from outside the continent. South African officials say by the time the first game kicks off around $50 billion will have been spent on infrastructure projects, including improvements to the country’s transportation system and enhancements to its telecommunications, energy provision and security sectors.

AUTHOR: Tariq Panja
DATED: 24th November 2008