When making its case for hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, the tournament's Organising Committee (OC) has always highlighted South Africa's excellent track record of staging major events.
A man who can attest to South Africa's smooth and successful staging of one of world sport's biggest events is Malcolm Speed, who has been the International Cricket Council's chief executive officer since July 2001.
Speed was in charge of world cricket when the ICC Cricket World Cup was held in South Africa in 2003, without incident and to much acclaim.
"The 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup in South Africa was great. I was impressed by the level of support from the government for the event and the tremendous enthusiasm from South Africans about hosting a major sporting event. The facilities were excellent, at all the venues we played at in South Africa. The major venues in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth were all of a very high standard and all quite different. They set the scene for an excellent event," Speed told the OC's Communications Department in an interview in Cape Town.
Speed's been a regular visitor to South African shores for nearly a decade now and is well-placed to comment on the country's rapid progression in recent times.
"I've been to South Africa three times this year and around 15 times since 1999. It's a fantastic and beautiful country. I am intrigued by your politics and commitment to racial integration. I've been to townships in Johannesburg and museums in South African cities and have
a good understanding of the history of the country. In 2004 I brought my family to Cape Town and eight of us drove from Cape Town to
Port Elizabeth. Travelling on the Garden Route is one of the world's
most beautiful trips," said Speed.
And allayed to the beauty of the country is the warmth and hospitality
of its people.
"The volunteers were a major feature of the 2003 ICC Cricket World
Cup. The event followed closely after the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where
the volunteers were very effective. At the 2003 Cricket World Cup the volunteers
gave visitors the opportunity to interact with South Africans and to
see how friendly, obliging and efficient they were," said Speed.
South Africa's security situation is a subject that often comes up for
discussion, but Speed said he was extremely impressed with the
country's security arrangements in 2003.
"The resources the government and the police force made available for
security was outstanding. In a major event like a World Cup there are
always security crises; bomb threats and other threats, internal and
external. But they were efficiently and professionally handled by the
South African authorities. The level of VIP security for teams,
umpires and administrators was as effective as I've seen at a major
event. Clearly the police and the government were not prepared to take
any risks with security and the country's security officers were all
very well trained, very disciplined and unobtrusive," said Speed.
The interview with the ICC boss takes place on the 19th floor of the
five-star Arabella Sheraton hotel in the Cape Town city centre, with
breathtaking views of the construction site of the city's 2010
Greenpoint World Cup stadium, which is enveloped by the Atlantic Ocean
and the famous Table Mountain.
As he savours the awe-inspiring sight, it's clear Speed's smitten with the Cape.
"Cape Town is my favourite city in South Africa. The Newlands Cricket
ground, sitting at the foot of Table Mountain, is a world cricket icon. I understand a beautiful new stadium will be built in Cape Town
for the 2010 World Cup. I hope it's as fondly regarded in the football
world as Newlands is in the cricket world," said Speed.
He reckons the strong leadership of 2003 Cricket World Cup chief
executive Ali Bacher was a feature of the event's success and is
confident the same will be the case in 2010.
"A major event like the World Cup needs to have an effective leader,
chief executive officer or president who has wide powers to get things
done within a generous budget. Dr Bacher did this with great style,
passion and energy. Dr Ali Bacher and his Organising Committee worked
for years putting everything in place and did a great deal of work on
the venues, which were all renovated and brought up to standard for
the World Cup. I met the 2010 Organising Committee chief executive
officer Danny Jordaan in 2003. I wish him and his team similar success
in 2010. I hope that at the end of 2010 they will look back at the
event as a major part of their lives and careers as sports
administrators. I hope they enjoy their roles and do South Africa
proud," said Speed.