South African potential can emerge from mountain of bricks
We are now less than a week away from the start of the Confederations Cup and the first true test of South Africa’s preparedness to host the 2010 World Cup.
It’s hard for a lot of people to take the Confederations Cup seriously, although in Germany four years ago it did develop into a summer festival and in the end proved a tasty appetiser before the main meal 12 months later.
The field for South Africa is somewhat lob-sided: Brazil, Italy and the all-conquering Spanish are the strong favourites with the United States, Egypt and South Africa perhaps having the potential to create an upset. Iraq and New Zealand should pose few problems for the big teams.
Most importantly, though, this is a test of the organisational ability of the World Cup hosts, whose preparations for 2010 have been clouded by uncertainty.
That has been partly because of international scepticism over the ability of an African country to organise an event of the magnitude of the World Cup and partly because South Africa have failed dismally to spin the positives of their bid.
But the evidence of potential is now beginning to emerge from beneath the mountains of bricks and dramatic skyline of cranes.
The stadiums are all scheduled to be completed ahead of time and the country’s infrastructure is already looking sleeker and smarter, although new road works and airport upgrades continue at pace.
Ultimately, though, it will be the people who make or break the event.
There is an underlying spirit of hospitality to South Africans but it is also a country with a dangerous crime rate that makes many visitors nervous. This month presents the chance for a good deal of positive marketing.
Whether South Africa snatches up the opportunity remains to be seen.
PHOTO: A fan smiles during South Africa’s friendly against Poland at Orlando stadium in Soweto June 6, 2009, ahead of the Confederations Cup. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko