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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 November 2007, 14:15 GMT
World Cup to kick off SA economy
By Bill Wilson
Business reporter, BBC News, Johannesburg

Sepp Blatter at Soccerex
Fifa bosses hope the whole of South Africa will benefit from 2010

The level of enthusiasm in South Africa for the World Cup can be found everywhere, from children playing five-a-side football in the street, to taxi drivers keen to discuss their country's chances of doing well in 2010.

But after the excitement of securing the tournament, Sunday's World Cup draw has brought a sharpening realisation that there are less than three years to go until the first staging of the tournament in Africa.

And South African decision makers, from civic leaders to business people, are well aware of the tasks that need to be completed if the World Cup is to bring the hoped-for boost to the economy.

'South Africa will be ready'

At the Soccerex football business convention in Johannesburg, the host cities aired some of the challenges and hopes they have for 2010.

2010 is not just about the big business around football, it is about encouraging smaller enterprises
Mbhazima Shilowa, Premier Guatang province

Mbhazima Shilowa, premier of Guatang province and host to 5000 Soccerex delegates from around the world, told BBC News: "South Africa will be ready to stage the World Cup in 2010.

"We are doing everything we need to do to make sure we have the necessary infrastructure in place: stadiums, roads, public transport that is safe and reliable, and the fan parks."

The business of football

But Mr Shilowa admitted that one area where South Africa still had some learning to do was in increasing its slice of the billions generated worldwide through football sponsorship.

Construction work has begun on the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg
Stadiums are among the main construction projects.

"We are still in the early days there," he said.

"But 2010 is not just about the big business around football, it is about encouraging smaller enterprises.

"I would like to think that the rest of the provinces will be encouraging small, medium, or micro enterprises to make the most of the opportunities around the World Cup.

"At the same time we need to move beyond provincial interests to look at the bigger interest of the country."

'Football to the people'

Mr Shilowa said that while a lasting infrastructure was very important, there was also a need to financially support South African football.

"An aim of 2010 is about bringing football to the people too," Mr Shilowa said.

"If there is money left from the business deals that we do around the World Cup, we will invest in players of all ages and abilities."

Premier Shilowa also indicated that by 2010 there should be an easing of the gridlock which can hit major roads in the city.

"If the traffic in Johannesburg today is not very smooth, don't despair, because we are building the rapid rail link from the airport."

The Gautrain consists of an 80km rail link between Johannesburg, Tshwane and Johannesburg's international airport and is seen as a major project that will bring socio-economic benefits.

Economic springboard

The rail link's section between Tambo International Airport, Sandton and Midrand is timetabled to be completed by the time the World Cup kicks off.

A South African football fan
There is a real passion among local football fans

"Johannesburg is using the World Cup as a springboard to accelerate the city's development schedule agenda and to initiate projects that will provide a lasting legacy for its citizens," says Sibongile Mazibuko, Johannesburg's executive for 2010.

Johannesburg needs to develop many crucial systems before the tournamennt begins: an IT infrastructure, a major new bus system, and its overall infrastructure, she adds.

"The World Cup will bring increased demand for development of the stadiums, adequate electricity infrastructure, and waste disposal mechanisms," Ms Mazibuko points out.

Another important area will be safety and security within the city and that means an extensive network of surveillance systems, which should, she said, offer opportunities to small and medium IT firms.

Meanwhile work is under way to ensure that the two match venues in the city - Ellis Park and Soccer City - are ready on time.

Cape Town doubts

However it is not just Gauteng - the smallest of South Africa's provinces but home to the economic powerhouse that is Johannesburg - that is getting to grips with the demands of 2010.

In Cape Town, which will host nine games, a 68,000 new stadium is being built at picturesque Green Point.

The construction has proved controversial with environmentalists, local residents, and others who say there is not sufficient football interest in the city to sustain such a large venue.

But the city is confident the stadium will be a huge success and used Soccerex to launch a bidding process for naming rights to the ground.

That could bring in huge revenues if the city is as successful as Arsenal, with Emirates airline, in securing a big name backer for the stadium.

The naming rights process will start in January, and the hunt is also on for a firm to operate the facility.

The finest 'visual setting'

Shopper in Soweto, Johannesburg
South Africa needs to create thousands of jobs

Deputy mayor Grant Haskin says the backdrop of Table Mountain will aid them in their hunt for a "national or international bidder".

"This stadium has the finest visual setting in South Africa," he says.

After the World Cup it will be reduced in capacity to 55,000 and used for football, rugby, concerts and other events.

Another city where stadium work needs to be completed is in Bloemfontein, in Freestate, where the rugby union stadium is being upgraded for the World Cup.

The stadium is currently home to Bloemfontein Celtic, who play their bigger league matches there.

Its capacity is being increased from 36,000 to beyond 40,000 - which will allow it to host first and second round World Cup games in 2010.

A second tier will be added to the main grandstand, new turnstiles installed, floodlights improved, electronic scoreboards put in, and the sound system upgraded.

Hoping for jobs

"I think everything will be ready on time," says Celtic chief executive Ikie Augusti.

"We are grateful that the World Cup means we will be able improve our capacity for the big games, and that the stadium is being refurbished.

"Having the World Cup here is going to give South Africa, Free State, and Bloemfontein publicity around the world.

"The building work, new infrastructure, and general upgrading of facilities can only be good for the country's economy."

And he said that should also give a boost to South African job market.

"People are feeling very positive about the country at the moment and the World Cup has given us a lot of hope."



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