Southern African News Features                                           SANF 10 No 24, June 2010
Carnival fever grips South Africa as country prepares to host World Cup

A carnival atmosphere has gripped South Africa as the country prepares to host the first FIFA World Cup final to be held on African soil.

With less than two weeks to go before the kick-off of the 2010 Soccer World Cup, the South Africans have already set themselves on course into uncharted territory - with a number of feats along the way.

The South African Local Organizing Committee (LOC) is upbeat about prospects of putting up one of the best shows since the tournament started 80 years ago.

Despite teething problems during the first round of ticket sales, public enthusiasm has gathered momentum in the past month, with more than 97 percent of the 2.88 million purchasable tickets having been sold by the end of May.

This corresponds with figures from past FIFA World Cup tournaments held in Japan/South Korea and Germany in 2002 and 2006, respectively.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said a total of 100,000 tickets were sold between 28 and 30 May, and 14 matches were no longer available, including the final, the semi-finals and the three group games featuring the host team, Bafana Bafana.

Of the 100,000 tickets, about 53,000 have been sold through branches of a local financial institution, 30,000 through the Internet and Call Centre, 13,500 through FIFA Ticketing Centres and 3,500 through supermarkets.

"We are very happy with the way fans have responded and we are sure that we will all enjoy a fantastic FIFA World Cup," Valcke said.

After six years of sustained hard work and intense global scrutiny of their ability to deliver, South Africa’s nine host cities have produced 10 World Cup stadium matching and even exceeding international standards.

Gleaming, fully complete, along with perfectly manicured pitches and world-class technology, South Africa’s 10 football "cathedrals" are testimony to the country's ability to produce the goods, whatever the circumstances.

LOC chief executive Danny Jordaan and Valcke have unveiled plaques at Tshwane’s Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Rustenburg, Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, Green Point Stadium in Cape Town and Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.

They were expected to unveil Johannesburg’s Ellis Park and Soccer City stadia in the first week of June, with FIFA president Sepp Blatter due to join them on June 5 for the final stops of the tour at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit and Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.

The Moses Mabhida Stadium has scored an engineering first for an African stadium with its majestic arch, and has also become the world’s first "quantum" stadium.

Quantum "cryptography", which in layman's terms refers to anything written in secret code, is a new technique of providing ultra-high communication security by encoding data within quantum particles.

Anyone who tries to intercept an information feed protected in this way without being noticed must first break the established laws of quantum mechanics.

"This is the first public global event to use such a quantum-based encryption solution," said Francesco Petruccione, a professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Quantum Technology which has led the project in partnership with the City of Durban.

"The project will provide a high-level security system along the optical fibre communication link between the stadium and the Joint Operations Centre during the World Cup," Petruccione explained at the launch of the stadium in late May.

To achieve this, the stadium uses quantum mechanical methods to distribute ultra-secure encryption keys.

Information conveyed through optical fibre links is often not encrypted, and therefore vulnerable to tapping using equipment readily available via the internet, Petruccione noted.

The quantum-based system will make it virtually impossible for hackers to tap into communication between the two points via telephone, e-mail and video links.

To cater for those who cannot afford the tickets, the various host cities have organized public viewing places in remote areas.

Soccer lovers in rural KwaZulu-Natal will not miss out on the World Cup experience after the government and private sector invested R80 million (about US$10.4 million) on 10 public viewing areas spread across the province's rural communities.

The public viewing areas feature staging and screening facilities and soccer clinics as well as food and beverage sales.

Local artists, comedians, poets, community radio personalities and visual artists from the province have been selected to perform at the public viewing areas, while specially trained community 2010 safety volunteers will tackle safety issues within the venues.

The Department of Roads and Transport in Limpopo province has also set aside more than R25-million (US$3.2 million) for taxi operators to ferry soccer fans from rural areas to the province's public viewing areas during the tournament.

Each of the province’s five districts has one public viewing area, which will give rural communities that cannot afford tickets the opportunity of watching all the matches during the month-long tournament.

"The department will contract 1 250 taxis in total for the five selected viewing areas," provincial Roads and Transport Minister Pinkie Kekana said.

The excitement is not only limited to ticket sales, the stadia and players - the World Cup theme seems to permeate through every facet of South African society.

Advertising agencies have fashioned their campaigns along the World Cup theme, as have artists and other groups.

An art exhibition, titled Space: Currencies in Contemporary African Art, will run concurrently with the World Cup at Johannesburg’s Museum Africa, featuring a massive exhibition of art work from across the continent.

Organizers said the exhibition seeks to ensure that Africa's hosting of the 19th edition of the World Cup will be remembered through its art works.

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