2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™

11 June - 11 July

2010 FIFA World Cup™

It's South Africa's finest hour - Jordaan

In South Africa's final bid presentation to FIFA a day before President Joseph S Blatter announced the 2010 FIFA World Cup hosts, Danny Jordaan spoke of the Rio Abajo Rio - a river beneath the river.

It was from this Rio Abajo Rio Jordaan said - at the World Trade Centre in Zurich on May 14 2004 - that South Africans were able "to draw on resources that lie deep in the belly of our nation".

"Our people have risen from the ashes of a painful and divided past. Our rivers of hope and commitment to this Bid have never run dry because even beneath a dry riverbed is the Rio Abajo Rio," Jordaan said in an emotive speech.

When shortly after noon the next day Blatter held up a white card bearing the magical words "South Africa" as 2010 hosts, millions of Jordaan's compatriots back home - thousands of miles away - broke out in wild, spontaneous, unbridled celebration and wept tears of joy which would have filled many a dry riverbed.

For a young country which just 10 years earlier had finally tasted democracy after the horrors of the inhumane apartheid era, it was a massive, overwhelming moment.

Jordaan, the 2010 Bid Company's chief executive officer, its chairman Irvin Khoza and South African Football Association president Molefi Oliphant, with the fervent support of South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki and the country's government, had lobbied tirelessly and spent thousands of hours on trains, planes and automobiles to make that moment a reality.

Given that it was the first time in FIFA's 100-year history that the World Cup was going to the African continent, the doubters were quick to appear and despite Blatter constantly saying for 2010 FIFA's "Plan A is South Africa, Plan B is South Africa and Plan C is South Africa" critics still jump at talk of "contingency plans".

Jordaan, though, is unmoved and confident.

"I'm feeling very good at the moment and sense that all the essential elements are coming together to ensure a great World Cup for this country in 2010," he said.

"Over the last two years we've seen this World Cup really become a project of the nation, building national unity and patriotism. It's been a project of generating hope and recasting and repositioning South Africa as a country. One of focusing on building infrastructure for the future and stabilizing and strengthening our democracy and its human rights culture, placing the interests of the people as one of the key considerations," Jordaan added.

And it's those ordinary South Africans, quietly but efficiently transforming their country and readying it to host the world in 2010, that are the unsung heroes of the FIFA World Cup.

"In Port Elizabeth, a woman working at the construction site of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality's World Cup stadium said it was the first job she's had since 1995. She said one day she would be able to take her children to the stadium and say 'I helped build this'. Then there's the guy working at Soccer City, which will host the FIFA World Cup final in 2010, who said 'I'm not here to build a stadium for the World Cup, I'm helping to build my country'. We've found ordinary workers seeing this as a project not only to deliver a FIFA World Cup, but a better South Africa," said Jordaan.

Those are the kind of sentiments that reflect the determination of South Africans and Africans to confound their critics and host a successful World Cup which will help dispel negative perceptions of the African continent.

"We've achieved the beginning of construction in each and every one of our host cities. We're finalizing the process to select the International Broadcast Centre for 2010. That process is coming to an end and we'll have a decision towards the middle of the year. We're working on the program for the Preliminary Draw, which takes place in Durban on November 23 this year. These are achievements that stand out and that people can come and see," said Jordaan.

And already, financially anyway, without a ball being kicked the 2010 tournament is FIFA's most successful ever.

"From a commercial standpoint the commitment from FIFA's partners to 2010 is unprecedented. South African sponsors have delivered 100 million US dollars. There's a commitment from ordinary South Africans, from business, the government's commitment has been shown and hundreds of billions of rands are being spent on infrastructure; on roads, airport expansion, transport, electricity, water, telecommunications, etc. There has just been such a rallying behind this project," said Jordaan.

Still, he understands why the pessimists won't go away.

"Of course this project has also raised the debate in the minds of people in the international arena as to whether or not South Africa will be able to deliver this event. That's understandable from two points. Firstly South Africa's a developing country and the World Cup is a mega event. And secondly, it's the first World Cup in Africa after 100 years of FIFA. But we've bid for the 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cups and been through two separate evaluation processes of FIFA. In both cases South Africa was ranked the best candidate. For 2006 we were the best equal to Germany and ahead of England and Brazil. And for 2010, we were ranked number one again. In South Africa we have unwavering commitment and support for this event and this energises everyone to make our dream come true," said Jordaan.

South Africans have come a long way in a short space of time and despite the magnitude of the 2010 challenge, they don't intend failing with the stakes so high.

"In 1985 during apartheid, when the second state of emergency was declared in our country, many of us doubted we would see the day our country was free. Until 1994 I had no right to vote in my own country. That we are where we are today is no less than a miracle. So, if darkness is a perception that we will fail, why do we want to deal with that darkness? There's light and hope and a generosity of spirit in our country. We're in a position where we have democratic rights, human rights and freedom entrenched in our constitution. A democracy so thriving and an economy so buoyant. The reality is that our country has never had a finer moment than now," said Jordaan.

And South Africans are focused on the big job they have at hand and eager to welcome the world.

"We are the only country in the world that is going to host the biggest sporting event on earth. When hundreds of thousands of World Cup visitors come to South Africa in 2010, they will find people willing to embrace them with a generosity and spirit they've not seen before. A country that's ready to participate in the global economy and to be part of the entire community of nations".

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