FIFA president Sepp Blatter has led a high-level delegation to assess progress at the Green Point Stadium, and see how preparations for the 2010 FIFA World Cup are progressing.
Blatter was joined by Executive Mayor Helen Zille, FIFA General Secretary Jérôme Valcke, Local Organising Committee head Dr Danny Jordaan, former President FW de Klerk, businessman and FIFA ambassador Tokyo Sexwale, and Premier Lynne Brown.
The wet and windy conditions on Monday 15 September 2008 lifted for the delegation to get a closer look at the stadium, and meet crowds of construction workers.
Green Point stadium will host eight matches during the 2010 World Cup™, including a semi-final. At a press conference following the tour, Blatter stated that he was “very happy” with the progress he had seen, but added that the trip was not so much an inspection as a “courtesy visit to appreciate what the City is doing in the realisation of this jewel”.
He said he especially enjoyed the welcome he received from the construction workers, who sang and danced for the delegation, saying it was “an emotional moment”.
Zille confirmed that the stadium is four days ahead of schedule, “despite one of the wettest winters we’ve had”. "So far, so good," she added.
The roof is the next stage of the construction process, and Cape Town will have “the world’s biggest roof-wetting ceremony” when it is complete, she said.
“We are all geared to reaching the deadline of December 2009, when we will unveil the world’s most spectacular stadium in the world’s most spectacular setting.”
The dignitaries also focused on the country’s commitment to putting on a successful World Cup™.
De Klerk said he spoke on behalf of South African civil society by saying that the country is united behind making a big success of 2010. “All of us want to recapture the spirit of 1994 when we launched the new South Africa,” he said. “Let us make this wonderful occasion something special, and ensure a new positive appraisal by the rest of the world of our wonderful country.”
Premier Lynne Brown said the provincial government of the Western Cape would do all it can to ensure a successful World Cup™.
Blatter pointed out that the World Cup™ is the biggest sporting event in the world - even bigger than the Olympic Games - and that “football will solve problems, and football will bring everyone together, in politics and in sports”.
Responding to a question about how the country’s political situation, Blatter stated he was “not concerned about internal political problems in South Africa” and that “2010 cannot suffer from differences that could arise somewhere in the country”.
He also reiterated that there is no “Plan B” to host the World Cup™ elsewhere. “We want to deliver, together with authorities and the Local Organising Committee, the best ever World Cup™.”
He did however say he was disappointed with Bafana Bafana’s recent performance, and would take this up with local soccer bosses.
“I am sure South Africa will organise an unforgettable World Cup™ 2010,” he affirmed.