Following the conclusion of the security workshop for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, FIFA.com spoke with South Africa's National Commissioner of Police, Bheki Cele.
FIFA.com: Mr Cele, South Africa has staged several major tournaments in the past, but what unique challenges does hosting a FIFA World Cup pose?
Bheki Cele: History is in the making because Africa has never hosted an event of this magnitude. But we have hosted more than 140 major sporting events in South Africa, so the basic understanding of these events is there. The FIFA Confederation Cup was last year, the African Cup of Nations was in 1996 and we have also hosted the Rugby and Cricket World Cups. So the experience is there; all we need to do is double our efforts.
With less than a hundred days to go, where do your preparations stand?
All they need now is the odd touch-up. Most of these touch-ups will be multilateral, with the teams, security and the countries’ respective security personnel. By the time 11 June comes around and the referee blows that first whistle, we will all say: "Bravo, South Africa is ready".
How many people will be devoted to the job of security at the FIFA World Cup?
The South African police personnel will number 188,000. We are in the world’s top three when it comes to population-to-police ratio. But the event itself has given us an extra edge. The South African government budgeted 1.3 billion rand specifically for security matters, technology, equipment and training. That money would have not been there if there was no World Cup taking place in 2010. So we are ready with modern equipment and technology. Our people are trained for specific areas. So we will be using this during the World Cup in 2010 but, more importantly, beyond 2010. That is the legacy for the South African police.
We have hosted more than 140 major sporting events in South Africa, so the basic understanding of these events is there.
What have you learned from Interpol and this workshop here in Zurich?
We have a very close relationship with the general secretary of Interpol and we will be meeting again in Lyon with all 188 Interpol member states. They have made huge offers of assistance and their personnel will be in South Africa. Regarding the conference, we have met the chiefs of police from different countries and it has been of real benefit to work this closely together.
While it is clear that no major event can be 100 per cent secure, what reassurances can you give fans travelling to South Africa?
What you can do is to maximise and do the best you can. That’s what we must do as South Africa, along with all participating countries and security involved. We must be able to go home and say we are satisfied. We can’t leave any gap and think: ‘If only we would have done that’. If anything should happen, it will not be because of a lack of contribution on our part.
Aside from the stadiums, there will be also Fan Fests. How do you plan on controlling them?
The Fan Fest during the Final Draw in Cape Town has taught us a lot about how to plan for these things. We had planned for about 15,000 people, but in the end 55,000 turned up. We have also had games between Kaiser Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, a major derby match, to work on defining fan parks and public viewing areas. I saw some of those in Germany and they were huge. So we need to be properly prepared.
How much will you as a football fan be able to enjoy the tournament in your home country, given the important work you have to carry out?
I feel very disadvantaged. There will be some of the greatest footballers of the world coming to South Arica, like Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo and [Wayne] Rooney, but unfortunately, rather than going to the grounds and watch them play, I’ll be looking out the safety of people watching them. There is one match that I would really hate to miss: Portugal versus Brazil. Besides that, I will spend all my time and energy with my colleagues, making sure that people enjoy themselves.
What would you tell people who are still deciding whether to come to the tournament?
They will enjoy it if they come. As security agents, we must also behave in a way that ensures it is a peaceful time for entertainment and enjoyment that visitors are able to enjoy to the maximum. Really, I can only tell people to come down to South Africa and enjoy themselves - it’s a beautiful country.