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World Cup: One year to go

South Africa's World Cup preparations
Clad in fire and earthen colours, this arena has an African cooking pot design

By Simon Hancock
BBC News, South Africa

While excitement grows in South Africa for next year's World Cup, doubts continue to circulate abroad about the country's ability to pull it off. Just how are preparations going?

There is one year until the World Cup gets under way in South Africa. On 11 June 2010 at the Soccercity stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa will take to the field in front of more than 90,000 spectators for the opening game of the tournament.

"I'll be quite nervous," admits the man in charge of the construction of the stadium, Mike Moody, imagining the scene.

"I'll be waiting for the huge screams of the 90,000 fans and suddenly everything's working - the screens, the seats, the access - it's going to be an amazing evening, with a brass band and Zulu war drums, I imagine. Quite spectacular."

Construction work on the stadium still has five months to run, but already you can almost picture it.

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A look at the World Cup stadium

The structural work was completed long ago and most of the bright orange seats have already been installed.

Mr Moody explains that because of the design of the hi-tech stadium, no spectator will be more than 100 metres (330ft) from the action and there are no restricted views.

He believes it to be one of the most advanced arenas in the world.

Outside, it is designed to have the appearance of an African cooking pot.

Its cladding is a mosaic of fire and earthen colours and when completed, a ring of lights running around the bottom of the structure, simulating fire underneath the pot, will complete the look.

This is to be South Africa's answer to Beijing's Olympic Bird's Nest.

Bad press

Elsewhere in the country, other stadia are shaping up to be almost as impressive.

Cape Town's Greenpoint stadium with its view of Table Mountain is also sure to captivate the billions of television viewers the tournament will attract over its duration.

South Africa's national football team
This country has hosted 146 major events, all without a single security issue
Danny Jordaan
Organising committee

The competition's organisers feel they have received a bad press.

Not everything has gone as smoothly as the stadia construction - there have been issues with some of the transport projects, and some here have questioned whether a developing country should be spending so much on such an event when so many live in abject poverty.

But nothing would so far seem to justify recent suggestions that the 2010 World Cup might need to be moved to another country.

"We will pick up on this issue on July 11th after the final whistle, when we're not talking about projections, about what may or may not happen, but about fact," says Danny Jordaan, head of the local organising committee.

"The fact is that this country has hosted 146 major events - including the Rugby World Cup and the Cricket World Cup - all of them successful, all of them safe, without a single security issue."

South Africa has another chance to stage a dress-rehearsal with the Confederations Cup for the world's continental football champions kicking off this weekend.

Crime concerns

As for concerns about crime, Mr Jordaan points out that the Indian Premier League cricket tournament was recently moved from India to South Africa, precisely because it was deemed to be safer.

On 10 June 2009 Workers hang a giant soccer shirt that reads "one year to go" to the 2010 World Cup to be held in South Africa in Cape Town, South Africa
Organisers of the tournament are said to be setting their sights high

The organisers, in fact, are setting their sights high - promising to put on the best World Cup ever - but several factors are working against them.

The global recession has forced them to cut projections for visitor numbers to around 300,000, meaning far less revenue than expected, and meanwhile the poor showing of the national team threatens to spoil South Africa's party.

Most successful World Cups see the host team perform well, exciting the host population.

The dream in South Africa is to unite an often divided country behind a common cause, but so far that cause - the national team, known as Bafana Bafana (The Boys) - is not playing its part, languishing 72nd in the world rankings behind Panama, Bahrain and Gambia.

With much of the white population not traditional football fans, prospects for a country-wide celebration look bleak.

"It comes down to success. If I'm honest, I'd rather watch rugby when the national team is doing badly - I know we've more chance of winning," says former Bafana Bafana star, Mark Fish.

"We've gone from up there, to down here and we now lag behind much of Africa."

Witchdoctors

Given these issues, some here question whether the outlay - thought to be around 26bn South African rand ($3.3bn;£2bn) - is money well spent in what is a developing country.

Even in the shadow of some of the brand new stadia, residents live in abject poverty.

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Sinazo Qambela shows around the slum in the shadow of Orlando Stadium

But the World Cup will leave a legacy for some.

In parts of Soweto, where previously there were slums and polluted land, trees are being planted and a park area has been created to welcome the expected influx of visitors the tournament will bring.

And at the local football school, children now play on turfed pitches, rather than dust.

The passion and colour of the existing football fans here should ensure there is a party for visitors, if not in the wider host population.

And some may well be resorting to unorthodox methods to spur on the Bafana Bafana.

Fish, as a former player with Soweto's biggest team, the Orlando Pirates, speaks about the reliance on witchcraft in football.

He says he doesn't even want to think about some of the potions he was forced to swallow during his playing career.

The witchdoctors are no doubt already sharpening their chicken bones - it may be South Africa's best chance of success.

On the pitch, at least.


Are you in South Africa? Do you live in a city that will be hosting World Cup matches? What changes have you noticed in your community? Are you planning to set up a new business in time for the World Cup? Or are you thinking of hosting a party? Send us your comments.

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