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Construction of the main stadium for the 2010 Soccer World Cup will be finished early, the main spokesman for South Africa's 2010 organising committee said yesterday.
Tim Modise told a briefing that government officials were confident that FNB Stadium in Johannesburg would be ready by April 2009, well ahead of the October 2009 delivery deadline set by soccer's governing body, Fifa.
"The flagship stadium, where the opening and final games will be played, will be delivered several months ahead of time," Modise said.
South Africa is building five new stadiums and refurbishing five others in preparation for the World Cup, which will be the first played in Africa.
Work on the stadiums began this year, later than expected, prompting concerns that South Africa would not meet key construction deadlines and spurring reports that Fifa might consider moving the World Cup to another country.
Fifa officials have repeatedly denied any plan to strip South Africa of the prestigious tournament.
After touring World Cup sites in South Africa last week, the organisation's president Sepp Blatter said "only an act of God" would see the tournament taken away from the country.
FNB Stadium, which is near Soweto, will have 94000 seats.
Designed to resemble a giant calabash shell, the stadium will create the image of a traditional African cooking pot when lit up.
While praising officials for picking up the pace on stadium construction, Blatter and others have urged organisers to pay attention to the construction of hotels and other facilities and ensure the streets are safe for visitors.
South Africa's high level of violent crime, much of it centred in and around Johannesburg, has raised fears that fans and athletes could be easy pickings for criminals during World Cup events in the nine host cities.
Meanwhile, Herald Online reports that the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality has decided to downgrade the city's Soccer World Cup stadium because the Eastern Cape government has not paid the R212 million it previously committed to the project.
However, the government says it is committed to the development and will release funds if the municipality can explain why the budget has shot up to more than R1,2 billion. - Reuters