May 16, 2004

SOUTH AFRICA: Football World Cup 2010 for the first time in Africa

South Africa will host the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the first in the history of world football's governing body to be held in Africa. With 14 votes, South Africa was declared as winner after the first round of voting. Morocco received 10 votes, while Egypt did not get any. The result of the vote represents the highlight and climax of an 18-month procedure that began at the end of 2002 with the African member associations invited to declare an interest in hosting the tournament. As well as the five countries that submitted full bid files and received visits from the FIFA Inspection Group between October 2003 and the end of January 2004, Nigeria had also shown initial interest but decided against following it up at the end of September 2003.

The World Cup is the biggest sporting event outside the Summer Olympics and soccer the world's most popular sport. It would be recalled that the 'Rainbow nation' hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup and the 2003 Cricket World Cup successfully but the soccer World Cup, which began in 1930, has never been held on the continent. The hosting of the 2010 World Cup finals was a perfect gift for the country as it celebrates 10 years of democracy.

The nation's economy is expected to add three billion Rand ($423 million) and create more than 150.000 jobs in a country where unemployment is over 30 % and poverty is rife. Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Martinus van Schalkwyk reacted by saying that the Soccer World Cup would immensely boost the country's tourism industry. "Leaving aside for a moment the direct benefits to our economy of the tournament, and the immense legacy of sporting and social infrastructure that will remain, this is the single most important boost ever for South African tourism. "We will be ready," the minister said. He said the decision by FIFA to award the country the bid sent a message that South Africans had stepped onto centre-stage. "Although this decision marks the culmination of a decade-long campaign it is not the end but only the very beginning. This opportunity must be seized by every South African, in every community, as our chance to present Afro-pessimism with a permanent red-card," he said. The minister said billions of people would turn to South Africa for the world cup. "Combined with the hundreds of thousands who will travel here in person, they will see more of South Africa, more often, than at any point since 1994," he said. (This Day, Lagos / Bua News, Pretoria)

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