A NEWLY confident South Africa is polishing up for the global spotlight during the World Cup draw in two weeks' time, eager to show that it's ready for the games that will be 200 days away on Sunday.
Many of the doubts that once confronted the nation have long faded, dispelled by the successful hosting of the Confederations Cup in June.
Gleaming new stadiums have stilled fears of delays in construction, with debate already turning to how the nation's new landmarks will be used after the tournament.
Cape Town, which is hosting the draw, unveiled its new airport terminal this month. Johannesburg's main airport, the main gateway for an expected 450000 World Cup fans, has also received a major facelift that will ease the customs and immigration process.
Of the 3,1million World Cup tickets available, nearly 700000 have already been sold before the draw - about half of them to South Africans.
"Everything is ready to go and we are very excited," said Rich Mkhondo, spokesperson for the organisers.
But questions remain about security in a nation that suffers 50 killings a day, and on logistics for shuttling fans to smaller venues that simply don't have enough hotels.
South Africa has taken pains to ease visitors' fears at the alarming crime rate, pointing out that major events in the past, like the Rugby World Cup and Confederations Cup took place without serious incident.
"There's clearly a distinction to be made between societal crime in the country and event safety and security," chief organiser Danny Jordaan told Parliament last week.
Police plan to deploy 41000 officers for the World Cup, and have received training in crowd control from French gendarmes. Intelligence services and even the military are providing back-up if needed.
Johannesburg's airport, notorious for pilfered luggage, says it has cracked down on baggage handlers and cut the number of thefts from 30 a day to 18.
"Our 2010 target is reduction down to eight bags," of the 25000 handled each day, Bongani Maseko, operations manager for the Airports Company of South Africa, told Parliament.
Justice MinisterJeff Radebe has announced that 54 courts across the country will be dedicated to crimes committed in connection with the tournament, to move cases quickly through the judicial system.
Security around the venues will be tight. The worry is that visitors exploring the country will fall victim to the crimes South Africans face every day. - Sapa-AFP