The FIFA President has just completed a two-day visit to South Africa where he met the President of the Republic of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, his Deputy, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and the board of directors of the South African Local Organising Committee (SALOC) chaired by Dr Irvin Khoza and featuring, among others, South African Football Association President Dr Molefi Oliphant and SALOC CEO Dr Danny Jordaan. Additional meetings were held with the Mayor of Johannesburg, Amos Masondo, the Premier of the Western Cape Province, Ebrahim Rasool, and the Mayor of Cape Town, Helen Zille.
Joseph S. Blatter was accompanied by FIFA Vice-President Issa Hayatou, who was recently appointed as the first African to chair the Organising Committee for the FIFA World Cup™. David Will, Honorary FIFA Vice-President and chairman of the ticketing sub-committee, was also in attendance, as was Horst R. Schmidt, FIFA consultant for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.
"I'm a happy man," said a delighted FIFA President on more than one occasion. His satisfaction stemmed from what he had witnessed in Johannesburg and Cape Town over the past 48 hours. "Preparations are definitely on track. The enthusiasm in South Africa is phenomenal. I am absolutely convinced that, all together, we will deliver the best FIFA World Cup ever because it will be played in Africa," he stressed.
At the SALOC board of directors meeting on 18 June, the FIFA President heard the latest information on key logistical issues such as stadiums, transportation and accommodation, and was pleased to note that significant progress has been made in all areas since his last visit to the country a year ago. "It's important to acknowledge Joseph S. Blatter's first visit to Africa since his re-election as FIFA President and it's also important for the President to get a feel for the work that's underway in the country," said Dr Irvin Khoza.
Following a very well attended press conference in front of the construction site of the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg that will play host to matches including the final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, Joseph S. Blatter received a spontaneous cheer from the workers who are building the magnificent arena. "I'm here on my continent," said the FIFA President.
The following day, he opened SALOC's "business opportunities conference", a forum to show communities and small- and medium-sized businesses how they could become involved and possibly benefit from South Africa's hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.
The FIFA delegation then flew to Cape Town for an audience with Thabo Mbeki. At the ensuing media briefing, South Africa's head of state said, "I'm glad to welcome these two fellow Africans!" in reference to Issa Hayatou and ... Joseph S. Blatter. He then added, "It is good that FIFA has a continuous focus on how South Africa is preparing for the 2010 FIFA World Cup." Joseph S. Blatter, meanwhile, thanked the South African government for its support, stressing that, "without such commitment, it would not be possible to achieve a successful FIFA World Cup."
The FIFA President then went on to a meeting with Ebrahim Rasool and Helen Zille for the official launch ceremony of the Cape Town host city logo. "I've now received a comprehensive progress report from Cape Town and I have no doubt that everything will be ready here. Cape Town will play a major role during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Nine matches, including a semi-final, are scheduled here," said the FIFA President. Mayor Zille noted that, "Cape Town has fully committed itself to making the 2010 FIFA World Cup a resounding success. We are the first host city to launch our logo. The situation for the building of the Green Point Stadium is complex but I'm delighted to say that we are on schedule." Premier Rasool echoed the Mayor's words: "We will be ready! The infrastructure is growing. We are also using this event to make things better in our society. The 2010 FIFA World Cup is a legacy, not only for Cape Town but also for South Africa as well as the entire African continent."
Before leaving Cape Town, the FIFA delegation also had the opportunity to visit the Green Point Stadium construction site.
"The FIFA President and his assessment of the progress so far has been particularly encouraging. The 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa is a project of hope for our country, the continent and the people. It is also the building of a monument as a legacy for the tremendous work done by persons like our former President Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. It is in pursuing this objective that the FIFA President's visit, his positive evaluation of our work and his comments will serve as a major inspiration for all of us," concluded Dr Danny Jordaan.