Back in 2004, when Fifa president Sepp Blatter opened the envelope and announced that South Africa had won the bid to host the 2010 World Cup, his words were barely audible above the roaring crowd, and a collective cheer rose above the rainbow nation. Sitting next to the most powerful man in football, Nelson Mandela couldn't hold back the tears as he raised the World Cup trophy.
Since then South Africa has been in the throes of organising the biggest sporting event on earth and the nine host cities are well into preparations.
I am currently working in Cape Town and the rapid pace of development is astonishing. The imposing Green Point Stadium rises another few centimetres every day; "Team Green Point", in their distinctive red and yellow uniforms with footballs on their hard hats, has been working diligently since 2007, and Fifa has recently announced they'll get free tickets for some matches to say "thank you".
Green Point Stadium's position was chosen specifically so that almost every TV camera angle gets Table Mountain in as a backdrop. Football's showpiece tournament is the biggest event in television; as a tourist destination Cape Town can't get better publicity than that.
Elsewhere, roads and roundabouts routinely move and reappear somewhere else; flashy new hotels, apartment blocks and shopping malls are going up; the railway station is (at last) being refurbished; and the new terminal, named "2010" will be open at Cape Town's airport by the end of the year. Additionally, construction has begun to lay down routes for the new Integrated Rapid Transport (IRT) system – dedicated bus lanes with stations. This is the first city-wide public transport system Cape Town has ever had. The citizens, and the millions of prospective visitors, have every reason to be grateful to football's ruling body.
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