WASHINGTON: Hosting FIFA’s Confederations Cup in June and Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket on short notice gives South African officials confidence the 2010 FIFA World Cup will be staged without major problems.

South Africa’s US ambassador Welile Nhlapo said on Monday that past cricket and rugby World Cup successes together with the ongoing IPL cricket will allow for greater testing of security measures. “These events will give us the chance to deal with all sorts of situations, give us time to correct anything that might be needed and provide a secure World Cup.”

Exactly 15 years to the day since Nelson Mandela won the first democratic election in South Africa to mark an end to apartheid, Nhalpo said economic woes have not been a setback to South Africa delivering a successful 2010 World Cup. “These are 15 years of real serious progress,” Nhlapo said. “There are some problems we continue to face but we can say confidently that despite the current economy we’re doing quite well. We’re on course to meeting all the requirements FIFA had for us hosting the World Cup and we believe we will be able to deliver a very good World Cup.”

South Africa will spend $5 billion to help ensure 200,000 police officers on duty for the World Cup, helping safeguard teams as well as visitors. US interest in 2010 World Cup tickets ranks only behind the United Kingdom, South Africa tourism officials said, just as Americans moved past Germans to become the second-largest group among the land’s nine million yearly tourists.

That interest impressed Lucas Radebe, South Africa’s most capped player and a former Leeds United player. “With that interest in the World Cup, it’s the start of building a great footballing nation,” he said.

Sthu Zungu, South Africa Tourism’s US regional president, said more than 10 million global visitors are expected next year with 350,000 to 400,000 of them coming during the World Cup and each spending on average about $1,000.

Ruling ANC party leader Jacob Zuma has said he fears the economic slump would hurt South African jobs but the Cup has boosted construction jobs thanks to venue renovations and other new facilities.