A great leap of faith

A project of colossal proportions such as the World Cup Soccer finals inherently imposes risks and challenges of the same magnitude on the host country.

A project of colossal proportions such as the World Cup Soccer finals inherently imposes risks and challenges of the same magnitude on the host country.

Unless the host is blessed with First World infrastructure, a World Cup soccer tournament invariably exacts unbearable demands and puts heavy pressures on a developing country such as South Africa.

A case in point is this week's decision by the Local Organisation Committee to remove Port Elizabeth's Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium from the 2009 Confederations Cup schedule apparently because of the unreadiness of the venue. This action reflects Fifa's uncompromising approach to preparations for the spectacle.

So it goes without saying that the enormity of the exercise has been something of a sobering experience for the Local Organising Committee, which has had to deal not only with labour and municipal politics but pricing issues with contractors in the lead-up to meeting stadium deadlines set by Fifa.

While Fifa might have long passed the stage of feeling like a toddler taking its first steps when it handed South Africa the mammoth task, its posture has occasionally betrayed hints of nervousness behind the official mask.

Granted, Fifa took an unprecedented step that showed immense courage and a paradigm shift, but it's hard not to notice that Fifa president Sepp Blatter is wont to cut a figure looking to a decent sleep only after the last match of the 2010 tournament.

How else does one explain the fact that the existence of Fifa's Plan B in the event of a catastrophe preventing South Africa from hosting the earth's biggest showpiece enjoys more credence and generates greater excitement elsewhere than the host nation's capacity to stage a successful tournament and its current progress towards that goal.

Fifa may yet one day admit to a great leap of faith, the magnitude and implications of which were later to test its willpower and resolve with increasing vehemence.

In the meantime, Africa proudly marches forward to its glorious moment.

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