Thursday, September 21, 2006

South Africa will be ready by 2010: World Cup chief

Claims that South Africa's preparations for the 2010 World Cup were lagging behind schedule have been dismissed by organising committee chief executive officer Danny Jordaan.

"We are ahead of schedule, and we will be ready," Jordaan told AFP.

His comments came after a volley of criticism in recent weeks from both home and abroad about the readiness of his team to stage the first ever World Cup in Africa.

German football legend Franz Beckenbauer, Jordaan's counterpart in this year's finals, this week became the latest high-profile figure to raise question marks about the tournament saying it was "beset by big problems".

FIFA president Sepp Blatter also revealed last week that he planned to visit South Africa shortly "to fire up the organising committee."

Jordaan dismissed Beckenbauer's comments, saying his criticism was devoid of detail and there was no need to press panic button.

"He is not telling us what the problem is... We will write him a letter so that he can explain what the problem was about," said Jordaan who masterminded South Africa's bid to host the 2010 finals as well as the unsuccessful campaign to host this year's tournament.

Blatter also voiced concerns that construction and renovation of the 10 stadia due to stage the matches had yet to begin in earnest, saying that he had "yet to see the pickaxes and spades needed to start the work."

Jordaan, who said no firm date had been arranged for a meeting with Blatter, deflected suggestions that the stadia would not be ready for kick-off.

"We have the stadia, the infrastructure is in place and we also have the backing of FIFA and the government," he said. "All of us will be working towards the success of the tournament."

Senior municipal officials in the nine host cities accused the South African government and lawmakers last month of hampering their preparations.

The officials told a parliamentary committee they were still in the dark about the amount of money they would receive for the tournament.

They also complained that legislation on tendering contracts threatened to derail their organisation efforts.