Mixed report about state of stadiums
By Clayton Barnes
Fifa secretary-general Jerome Valcke says he is satisfied with the state of the country's stadiums, despite major defects in some host cities.
Speaking to the Cape Argus before Monday's inspection of the Cape Town Stadium, Valcke said: "I could not have been happier. All the stadiums are up to standard and I am confident in South Africa's ability to host the 2010 World Cup."
There are still teething problems, though: on a visit to Rustenberg, where the English team are to be based, it became clear that the roads around the Royal Bafokeng Stadium are in a shocking state.
The same was true of the roads around the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.
The pitch at Mbombela is a sandpit.
During a tour of Mbombela yesterday, Valcke said the original pitch had been removed in December after recommendations to the world football body by independent pitch experts.
Fifa's pitch expert, Richard Hayden, said "great pitches", not good pitches, were needed for the World Cup.
"The pitch (at Mbombela) was partially good, that's why it had to be lifted," Haydn said yesterday.
"We decided to remove the original pitch and replace it with rye grass, which is much better for the tournament."
Cape Town Stadium's pitch was also seeded on site in November, after pitch grass had been grown off-site in the Boland for more than a year.
Hayden said that, like Cape Town, Mbombela's pitch would be green within the next seven or eight weeks.
Mbombela's management hopes to host the stadium's first test event on May 8.
Valcke, accompanied by 2010 organising committee chief executive Danny Jordaan and 120 journalists from across the world, are on a five-day whistle-stop tour of the country's 10 World Cup stadiums.
The inspection tour started with a visit to Ellis Park Stadium on Friday, followed by stops at the seven World Cup stadiums in the north of the country.
The team is to inspect the Cape Town Stadium today. This is to be followed by a tour of the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Port Elizabeth and the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban tomorrow, when Fifa and the 2010 organising committee are to celebrate the start of the 100-day countdown to the June kick-off.
Bafana Bafana are expected to take on Mexico for the first match of the tournament at Soccer City, the venue for the opening ceremony, on June 11.
Addressing the media at the 98 000-seater Soccer City stadium at the weekend, Jordaan said that although workmen were occupied with the beautification of the venue, the stadium itself was complete.
"This stadium is now complete and the tournament we have all been waiting for is in our grasp," Jordaan said.
Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane said South Africans had a huge responsibility to make the thousands of expected visitors feel at home during the event.
She said every South African had a duty to ensure that every visitor felt welcome.
"For us as the government, failure is not an option," said Mokonyane. "We are satisfied with the work that we have done. We are ready to welcome the multitude of visitors."
All Gauteng match venues were ready.
"Ellis Park and Loftus Versfeld are complete, while finishing touches such as paving and landscaping are being completed at Soccer City," Mokonyane said.
But in Rustenburg, where the English team are to be based, the road from Sun City to the Royal Bafokeng Stadium is in a shocking state. Only half is tarred and the road has a number of potholes.
North West Premier Maureen Modiselle said transport officials had promised her the road would be ready by May 21.
"That road is under construction. The transport MEC has promised me that the road will be in tip-top shape by May 21.
"He told me that if it is not, I can fire him."
George Khunou, Rustenburg's 2010 managing director, said the road should have been completed a year ago.
"We had some procurement problems, but I can assure you the road will be completed for the World Cup."