R6,3bn budget for red carpet

All reports by Ramatsiyi Moholoa

All reports by Ramatsiyi Moholoa

The City of Johannesburg plans to roll out the red carpet after setting aside a massive budget of R6,3 billion for preparations and various projects in the build-up to the 2010 Soccer World Cup finals.

Amos Masondo, executive mayor of Johannesburg, said they would pull out all stops to contribute to the success of the World Cup, saying it was important for Africa to "put up the greatest show ever".

Masondo was quick to point out that the South African government and the private sector have also contributed significantly towards the World Cup coffers, which he said they appreciated.

"We will be using the pressure coming with the 2010 World Cup to fast-track the work we have already started.

"We cannot afford to do anything wrong because the image of Johannesburg will also be on display internationally," he said.

"The World Cup provides us with a golden opportunity to market ourselves. There are many tourists who will be coming here for the World Cup and we need to showcase all the great things offered by our city.

"The City of Johannesburg has approved an overall 2010 Business Plan, which includes our contractual obligations to Fifa and our social legacy projects. In the business plan, we are committing ourselves to host the best World Cup ever.

"In addition, we also have to create a lasting legacy for the people of Johannesburg," said Masondo, adding that he was impressed by the overall preparations for the tournament within the municipality.

Masondo was brimming with excitement that the upgrading of Soccer City, which will serve as a venue for both the opening and closing ceremonies, was four weeks ahead of schedule.

The stadium is being upgraded at a cost of R1, 530 billion. Masondo said the City of Johannesburg had already secured additional funding of R518 million to make it a world-class facility and to deal with other financial challenges.

"We are four weeks ahead of schedule with piles and pillars on the first floor being cast at Soccer City," he said.

Johannesburg is the only South African city that will provide two venues for the World Cup - the other is Ellis Park Stadium, where the process of upgrading is also under way.

"We have a huge responsibility in as far as the World Cup is concerned. Besides the 15 games that we will be hosting, we also have to prepare for the opening and closing ceremonies."

Johannesburg was also given a further vote of confidence last month by the government after Jozi was named the venue for the International Broadcast Centre during the World Cup, from where more than 5000 journalists will operate.

In addition, the Fifa South African and Local Organising Committee offices are also at Safa House in Nasrec.

"We have a well documented track regarding the hosting of major international competitions and events. We are confident that Johannesburg will still be the most talked about city prior and post 2010," the mayor said.