On Tuesday, the third day of his visit to South Africa, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter visited the iconic Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg, before a private audience with former South African President Nelson Mandela.
The FIFA President received an enthusiastic welcome from construction workers on his arrival at Soccer City, the venue for both the Opening Match and Final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Blatter was visibly impressed by the progress made so far. "This is the centre of all the activities of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and I am so impressed by the magnitude of the construction of this stadium. It's great, it's big, it's huge. It is like a temple where people will assemble in 2010. I’m certain we’ll be on time. I’m a happy President."
The FIFA delegation was greeted at the stadium, scheduled for completion in late December 2009 and already boasting 20,000 installed seats, by Mayor of Johannesburg Amos Masondo. "The FIFA President has been unyielding in his support for the World Cup in South Africa. It is due to him that we have made so much progress. We are grateful for what he has done for our country. We will ensure that the World Cup in South Africa is an outstanding success."
On the visit to the extensive construction site, FIFA World Cup coordinator for Johannesburg Sibongile Mazibuko described the progress made so far to the FIFA delegation headed by President Blatter and General Secretary Jerome Valcke: "Ninety percent of the concrete elements are in place. The roof is 20 per cent complete, and the remaining work is on time. Although this is technically a major reconstruction, it is almost like a newly-built stadium. All that remains of the old stadium is the west stand. The rest is completely new."
Special Trophy for Mandela
The highlight of the day was the audience with former South African President Nelson Mandela at the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Accompanied by FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke and FIFA ambassador Tokyo Sexwale, Blatter presented “my friend Madiba" with a special FIFA World Cup Trophy. The miniature gold replica was specially commissioned for the former President and Nobel Peace Prize winner. "You are the true architect of this FIFA World Cup," declared Blatter on handing over the trophy, prompting a moving response from Mandela: “Thank you for this very special gift. It is an honour to welcome you here today. It was my desire to meet you and I am happy we have managed it."
Blatter described the meeting with Mandela as “the highlight of my stay here in South Africa. I feel at home in this beautiful and proud country. God bless you, and I hope we will watch the Opening Match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup together at Soccer City stadium on 11 June 2010."
During his four-day visit, the FIFA President is visiting locations in Johannesburg and Cape Town to assess the state of preparations for the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup. On Sunday, the FIFA President met President of the Republic of South Africa Thabo Mbeki. On Monday, he visited Green Point stadium in Cape Town and met former President F. W. de Klerk. The trip concludes on Wednesday with a visit to Ellis Park and a meeting with Jacob Zuma, President of the ruling African National Congress party.