Welcome relief for SA

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So the arrival on these shores of several international heavyweights has provided welcome relief from the day-to-day dramas which are being played out on the national stage.

Visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel who has first hand experience of hosting an event of the magnitude of the World Cup - and the headaches that go with it - was the first to admit that Germany experienced many problems in the build-up to the 2006 tournament.

But she was quick to point out the fruits that lie in wait. The World Cup, she said, provides an opportunity to create a new image for Africa. ’You’ll be in the centre of everybody’s interest all over the world, billions of people will have their eyes on your country’.

And several visiting Fifa officials have downplayed South Africa’s problems, while highlighting its 2010 progress. ’This is nothing. I have known much worse,’ said Alain Leiblang, head of Fifa’s Communications and Public Affairs who was referring to the recent labour disruptions on some 2010 construction projects.

The Frenchman said a general strike in 1998 when his country hosted the World Cup crippled basic services on the eve of the tournament. But, at the end of the day, France produced the goods, followed by South Korea and Japan in 2002 and, of course, Germany last year.

Painful lessons were learned in the process - lessons that can guide us over the next 32 months.

  • Craig Urquhart is a former Fifa World Cup Media Officer and the current editor of www.project2010.co.za

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