As Durban kicked off the 100 days to the World Cup celebrations last night, it was evident that South Africa is a country on a path to World Cup success as they host Africa’s maiden FIFA World Cup™.
“As we mark 100 days to the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, we do so with immense pride. We are proud because, in many respects, we are able to pronounce ourselves ready to welcome the world three months ahead of schedule,” said the South African Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe, in his speech during the 100 Day Banquet in Durban, held at the Durban International Convention Centre.
Motlanthe used the occasion to not only celebrate the countdown to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but to celebrate the hard work that has been put into getting to the 100 day mark.
We have gathered here to begin a countdown to the greatest football tournament on earth
“We have gathered here to begin a countdown to the greatest football tournament on earth. On behalf of the Republic of South Africa, I wish to extend our gratitude to all the men and women who have worked on the World Cup project and those who are still working on the last phase of our preparations”.
For the Chairman of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa, Dr Irvin Khoza, the 100 day celebrations mark a significant change in attitude.
“When the countdown started there were 2218 days, we did not count in years and months. But when you arrive at 100 days it is the last three digit number on the countdown. It is within this time period when people start applying for their leave, plan for their travel and even pay. People no longer say they are going to South Africa. They say ‘I am flying to Durban, on this airline and staying in this hotel’,” said Khoza on the reality that had now set in with the tournament so close.
As the clock ticks down to 11 June 2010, Khoza reminded a nation the country about what awaits them in 100 days time.
“We cannot wait until the 32 participating teams arrive. We cannot wait to enjoy the 30 days of football, 30 days of festival and 30 days of unprecedented and unequalled excitement and celebration. We cannot wait to bask in global attention, to project an image of Africa so vibrant and so positive that we create wealth, jobs and opportunity”.
Although he had many to thank for the hard work put into the preparations for the World Cup, Khoza singled out the ordinary citizens of South Africa, and Africa, in preparing a country for the World Cup.
“I would like to thank our people. Together, as South Africans and Africans, we have faced doubters and skeptics, we have faced critics and opponents. We have heard people say we cannot finish stadiums. We have heard people say we cannot provide safety and security. We have heard people say we cannot host the FIFA World Cup. Today, 100 days before the opening match, I ask you to recall the words of US President, Barack Obama. Can we stage an outstanding World Cup in Africa? Yes we can, we are waiting and we are ready”.