The recently completed OR Tambo International Airport central terminal building was officially opened by the President of the Republic of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, this morning.

After undergoing substantial renovations ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, the event celebrated the work that has been put into the airport that will welcome the world in just a few weeks.

“We meet at the busiest and most important entry point into our country, the OR Tambo International Airport. It is not a coincidence that this airport is named after an illustrious and outstanding internationalist and leader of our people – Oliver Reginald Tambo. We can therefore only feel inspired when we gather to celebrate achievement and progress at a facility that is named after him,” said Zuma of the apartheid struggle hero who, in fitting style, travelled the world to spread the message of a non-racial South Africa.

The completion of the renovations at South Africa’s main air transport hub is another reason to celebrate ahead of South Africa’s successful hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup said Zuma.

“We have every reason to celebrate the achievements such as the completion of the extension of this airport as it is a significant milestone. The completion is a practical example of our readiness to host the World Cup, while also providing proof of the benefits of this tournament to ordinary South Africans,” said Zuma as he listed the improvements to the airport which include the linking of the international and domestic terminals and the increase in parking capacity to 17,500 parking bays.

“Our vision of a truly international airport has been realised,” said Zuma.

For Zuma, the work that has been put into making sure the world is hosted in fine style in 2010, including the OR Tambo renovations, has certainly paid off.

“The stadiums have been completed and match tested. The host provinces countrywide are ready for the tournament and preparing for the flow of tourists. The airports at Cape Town and Mangaung have been upgraded, while King Shaka International will begin operation on 1 May.

“You can see that when we say we are ready for the tournament it is not just rhetoric, we mean what we are saying,” said Zuma who called on all South Africans to take part in the World Cup. “Let us work together, black and white, and welcome the world with the warmth and friendliness that South Africans are known for”.

But it is the economic benefits and legacy of the World Cup that impressed Zuma the most.

“The construction of stadiums created a total of 130,000 jobs. The direct, indirect and induced economic impact is valued at 15 billion rand. Of this amount, 7.4 billion rand of benefits have accrued to households, and two billion rand to low income households. Therefore the infrastructure development programme has contributed a significant dimension into our poverty alleviation drive, as it will add 4.9 billion rand to the real GDP in 2010. Much more important also, is the fact that the infrastructure which has been created will be a lasting legacy for the country,” concluded Zuma.