When I recently had a trip to South Africa, I had a chance to visit Johannesburg, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. I was really – like many would be- impressed by the good work being done by South Africans to host a grand soccer World Cup next year.
I was only deeply offended when one black South African chap asked me that - “how is up there in Africa?”-upon introducing myself as Rwandese.
Moreover, a black South African dude! It sounds so irritating how some South Africans feel that they are not part of Africa.
If such an attitude does not change and continues to show during the event, the rest of Africans will not count the event in South Africa as an African event.
We will still yearn for Africa to be given a chance to host this event.
Besides that silly mind-set put on view by some of our brothers and sisters, the work in progress is pretty much impressive.
It is no doubt the event will come to fruition and accord Africa a dash of pride as well as aura of confidence and high reverence.
South Africa regularly hosts major international sporting events, and since 1994 has successfully managed some of the biggest - including the 1995 Rugby World Cup, the 2003 Cricket World Cup, the Women’s World Cup of Golf in 2005 and 2006 and, in January 2006, the only street race in the inaugural A1 GP World Cup of Motorsport.
But the Football World Cup, the world’s biggest sporting event after the Olympic Games - in terms of television audience, bigger than the Olympics - is in a class of its own.
For four weeks in 2010, South Africa will be the centre of the world. The 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan was the most extensively covered and viewed event in television history.
Germany 2006, and South Africa 2010, promises to draw even bigger audiences.
The eyes of billions of television viewers, an estimated three million international visitors and the cream of the world’s sporting media will be focused on the southern tip of Africa.
The country will also be working to tight deadlines to ensure that the Gautrain, a high-speed rail link between Johannesburg, Pretoria and Johannesburg International Airport, is up and running in time.
Five of South Africa’s football stadiums will undergo major renovations for 2010: Soccer City and Ellis Park in Johannesburg, Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, the Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg in North West province, and Vodacom Park in Bloemfontein in the Free State.
New stadiums will be built at Mbombela in Mpumalanga and in the Nelson Mandela Metro in the Eastern Cape.
Peter Mokaba stadium in Polokwane in Limpopo will be rebuilt, as will Kings Park stadium in Durban and Cape Town’s Green Point stadium.
Kings Park and Green Point stadium will become completely new multi-sport facilities, Green Point complete with a retractable dome to protect fans and players from the Cape’s unpredictable winter weather.
The country’s tourism industry will benefit from the estimated three million visitors expected for the tournament, while construction and engineering companies will look to a slice of the billions to be spent on infrastructure in the lead-up to the event.
In his 2006 State of the Nation address, former President Thabo Mbeki said the World Cup would make a huge contribution, not only to South Africa’s socio-economic growth, but to the development of the continent as a whole.
In return for these irreplaceable benefits, South Africa owes it to Fifa and the rest of the soccer world to prepare properly for 2010.