Confed Cup venues in spotlight

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

A high-powered Fifa delegation knuckles down to serious business today to assess South Africa's Confederations Cup readiness, with the main focus on Ellis Park Stadium.

The delegation arrived in the country yesterday morning and had meetings with stakeholders at Safa House.

The team is in South Africa to inspect the four host cities of the "Festival of Championships" in June, a tournament Fifa uses to test a host country's readiness for the World Cup.

Accompanying them on the visits to Johannesburg, Mangaung, Rustenburg and Tshwane will be technical officials from the Local Organising Committee.

Today's inspection tour begins at Ellis Park, the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Confederations Cup. Tomorrow they will go to Loftus Stadium, Royal Bafokeng Stadium on Thursday and Free State Stadium the following day.

The inspection will end on Sunday with a visit to Soccer City, the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 World Cup.

Sibongile Mazibuko, City of Johannesburg World Cup director, said they were delighted that the upgrading of Ellis Park was now complete.

"The stadium itself is now complete and the subcontractors will be handing over at the end of the month."

Bafokeng Sports Holdings managing director George Khunou said they were happy with the progress at Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Phokeng.

"We are almost done, it's gonna be a wonderful state-of-the-art facility. The stadium will be ready to be handed over to Fifa in the next few weeks."

In Pretoria, they are applying the final touches to the upgrading of Loftus. Free State Stadium is also on track.

Irvin Khoza, LOC chairman, said they were impressed with the overall preparations for the tournaments.

He said they were once more encouraged by the support by Sepp Blatter, Fifa president, at the CAF general assembly in Nigeria last week.