South Africa has played down concerns that it had fallen behind in 2010 World Cup preparations, saying that progress was being made.
“The preparation work has begun,” Deputy Minister of Finance Jabu Moleketi said at a news conference. “Our eyes are on the ball and we are going to deliver … we are confident we are on time.”
Moleketi said that private companies would carry out the majority of the World Cup work and confirmed that major construction work on stadiums would begin throughout the country next February.
He added that 8.4 billion rand has been set aside for construction and renovation of stadia and nearly 6.0 billion rand on additional infrastructure.
South African police also tried to reassure Fifa about the safety of visitors entering the country. They aim to have 192,000 additional officers by 2009 and claimed that 30,000 of those would be assigned exclusively to protect players, fans and other tourists during the World Cup.
“The name of the game is blanket security,” said Andre Pruis, deputy national commissioner of the South African Police Service (SAPS).
Concerns about the 2010 finals intensified last month when local organizers of the tournament failed to show up at a news conference to discuss their readiness, prompting speculation that Fifa might move the event to another country.
Fifa officials have repeatedly denied that they have an exit plan although they remain concerned about the worsening crime figures in South Africa.