South Africa to host 2010 World Cup

Associated Press

Cape Town, May 15:

South Africa exploded with joy on Saturday after hearing that it will host the 2010 World Cup, completing the full circle from pariah nation to showcase for the world’s biggest sporting event. “Let’s all go out and celebrate,” a jubilant President Thabo Mbeki, raising a glass of champagne, told a huge crowd of dancing, singing soccer fans in the capital Pretoria. Former President Nelson Mandela — in one of his final public appearances before easing out of public view at the age of 85 — said that “I feel like a young man of 50.” All around the Rainbow Nation, a deafening cheer of delight erupted as FIFA president Sepp Blatter revealed that South Africa had won after just one round of voting. Champagne corks popped, drums pounded, horns honked and flares flashed through the sky at soccer stadiums, public squares and community centers.

Traffic came to a standstill on a busy routes through Johannesburg as drivers climbed out of their cars for a glimpse of the big screen broadcasts, while the gritty streets of Soweto overflowed with festivities. Forgotten were the tears and anger of four years ago when Germany squeaked past South Africa by one vote to win the rights for the 2006 tournament. Instead, South Africans rejoiced that the announcement from FIFA in Zurich represented the icing on the cake of their celebrations marking 10 years of multiracial elections. After years of isolation because of apartheid, South Africa has become one of the world’s most vibrant tourist destinations thanks to its fabulous coastlines, abundant wildlife and cultural richness. The country now hopes that heightened awareness of South Africa in the run-up to the World Cup — as well as the event itself — will lead to a further influx of visitors.

The South African bid committee has estimated that the World Cup will be worth some $3.1 billion to the economy and create an additional 160,000 jobs. It estimates that spending on stadiums and infrastructure will amount to $329 million. Mbeki and Mandela had argued that the awarding of the World Cup to South Africa would help it cement the economic and social gains made since the end of white majority rule and further bridge the gap between the wealthy white minority and poor black majority.

As the bells at government headquarters in Pretoria rang out in triumph, Mbeki stressed the need for the “continued unity of our people” over the next six years. He said that celebrations would continue through the weekend but that the real work would begin on Monday to honor FIFA’s expectations and organise an “excellent” World Cup. South Africa has an unblemished record in hosting major events including the 1995 rugby World Cup, the 1996 African Cup of Nations and last year’s cricket World Cup, plus a couple of major UN summits.