By Lebogang Seale
From this Monday morning, the spotlight will fall on the 2010 World Cup host cities when a Fifa inspection committee starts its week-long scrutiny of stadiums and related infrastructure.
Fifa's focus will mainly be on the 2009 Confederations Cup host stadiums: Ellis Park in Joburg, Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, Royal Bafokeng in Rustenburg, and Free State in Mangaung. It will also be looking at Polokwane's Peter Mokaba and Nelspruit's Mbombela.
The inspection team was due to go to Ellis Park on Monday.
During Fifa's last inspection, a special inspection team was set up when progress in Cape Town's Greenpoint, Durban's Moses Mabhida and Nelson Mandela Bay stadiums was found to be behind schedule.
The committee will be looking at stadium construction, transportation, competitions, accommodation, security, information and technology, media, TV and marketing.
Counting in Ellis Park's favour is that it is one of the few stadiums where only minimal upgrading is required.
Despite construction being intermittently interrupted by rain, Ellis Park general manager George Stainton is already looking beyond today's inspection. "We are a number of days behind our upgrading schedule, but this is of no concern to us because we are well ahead of any Fifa requirements."
Part of the minimal refurbishment at Ellis Park, Stainton says, includes erecting a roof covering an extra 5 000 seats - which will increase capacity to 65 000 - and installing new public seats all around the north lower grandstand.
The western grandstand will be given a facelift to accommodate media and conference centres, players and officials' medical facilities, and new VIP and presidential suites.
To avoid any power outages at the stadium, Stainton says four generators will be available - sufficient to power up the floodlights, which will be improved from 1 000 to 1 500 lux to comply with Fifa requirements.
The number of turnstiles will be increased from 49 to 85 to facilitate the flow of human traffic. To bolster security, a hi-tech security control system, backed by surveillance cameras, will be installed.
From Ellis Park, the inspection team were due to head to Loftus - another venue which is undergoing only minimal changes. Most of the changes required at Loftus are similar to those at Ellis Park. They include overhauling the stand roof, improving floodlighting on the eastern side, and installing new seating throughout the stadium.
From Gauteng the inspection team will on Tuesday travel to Rustenburg, where they will evaluate upgrading progress at the Royal Bafokeng stadium, where capacity is to be increased from 40 000 to 46 000.
On Wednesday and Thursday, attention shifts to the 45 000-seater Peter Mokaba sports complex and 46 000-seater Mbombela stadium. These are the only two venues on this inspection programme that are being built from scratch.
To avoid any embarrassment, authorities in Nelspruit will be hoping that protracted industrial action by workers at the stadium construction site will be over when Fifa arrives there.
Fifa will then complete its programme with a visit to Free State stadium, which will be upgraded from 38 000 to 46 000 seats.
An unperturbed Danny Jordaan, CEO of the 2010 Fifa World Cup Local Organising Committee, said: "2008 is the year of delivery of the infrastructure for the Fifa Confederations Cup 2009 and the 2010 World Cup.
"The latest inspection tour will find that considerable progress has been made with the preparations for the first Fifa World Cup on African soil. We're confident that Fifa will be happy with what they see."