100 DAYS UNTIL SOUTH AFRICA 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP

It is only 100 days until the first game of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa kicks off.

The opening match between the hosts and Mexico will be played at the impressive Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg on Friday 11th June.

The imposing 94,700-seater venue cost $440 million and was completed in October 2009 despite concerns over missing deadlines.

Cape Town Stadium is the most expensive at $600 million and has a capacity of 69,070. It will host group matches for Italy, England and Holland, along with a quarter-final and semi-final.

The smallest stadium is Royal Bafokeng Stadium which will host England’s opening group game against U.S. on 12th June. The 42,000-seater venue opened in March last year and was home to four 2009 FIFA Confederation Cup games.

South Africa now has 10 top-class stadia for the World Cup with a combined capacity of 575,597.

Many of the venues were completed in 2009 which has somewhat spoiled the scepticism surrounding South Africa’s ability to host the tournament. But there have been a number of other worries ahead of the prestigious tournament as infrastructure and transport systems are under scrutiny.

However FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who has long championed an African World Cup, is celebrating the achievement of a long-time dream and said: "I am very happy and very proud that this love story is now becoming a real wedding party."

South Africa has also upgraded 14 other stadiums to meet FIFA specification as a lasting legacy of the World Cup.

It is clear that this tournament is much more important than a few games of football for South Africa, and arguably Africa as a whole. If successful it could set the precedent for further high profile sporting events to be staged on a continent that has for so long been pushed to the periphery of international sport.

Posted on 03/03/2010