South Africa privileged and humbled, says Mandela
CAPE TOWN: Nelson Mandela kicked off the 2010 World Cup draw on Friday by saying that South Africa was "privileged and humbled" to be staging football's greatest event.
The country's iconic first black president played a pivotal role in securing the inaugural World Cup on African soil and he said sport was a powerful weapon in uniting nations.
"Sport has the power to inspire and unite people," said the 91-year-old, who was jailed for 27 years by the apartheid state but emerged from Robben Island prison in 1990 committed to democracy.
He negotiated a deal that led to universal suffrage and him becoming the country's first black president.
"In Africa, soccer enjoys great popularity and has a particular place in the hearts of people. Which is why it is so important that the FIFA World Cup will, for the first time ever, be hosted on the African continent in 2010," he added.
"We must strive for excellence in our hosting of the World Cup, while at the same time, ensuring that we are going to leave a lasting benefit to all our people.
"We feel privileged and humbled that South Africa has been given this singular honour of being the African host country.
"We must strive for excellence in our hosting of the World Cup, while at the same time, ensuring that we are going to leave a lasting benefit to all our people."
Mandela served only one term as president during which he was seen as a multi-racial unifier amidst South Africa's post-apartheid uncertainty.