Woza World cup woza!

2010 Countdown
2010 Countdown

THE 2010 Fifa World Cup has been talked about, debated and speculated on for so many years. And now, with one year to go to the tournament's kick-off, finally it's a given, an accepted reality. Not just for people in this country, but throughout the world.

THE 2010 Fifa World Cup has been talked about, debated and speculated on for so many years. And now, with one year to go to the tournament's kick-off, finally it's a given, an accepted reality. Not just for people in this country, but throughout the world.

Seeing the incredible progress that has been made is a relief. It gives us all a sense of accomplishment, joy, pride and achievement.

One year from now, two teams, one of them Bafana Bafana, will run onto the Soccer City pitch in Johannesburg and the match will be witnessed around the world.

So many people have worked so hard to make this dream of ours a reality.

If you firmly believe in the vision, the plan and the commitment you've made, you must stand firm. You must not doubt. It's why I can say with conviction that only God can take away this World Cup from us. But that conviction must be underpinned by hard work, consistency and focus.

People look at the project plans, the timelines and the key indicators to see whether this project will work and will be a success. But my conviction is derived from the hearts of the people who actually do the work, who are at the coalface, putting the infrastructure in place.

It's when you look at the construction workers building the stadiums, upgrading our airports and roads, the staff working on 2010 projects at the host cities and at all levels of government, and the staff of the Local Organising Committee at Safa House that you know this project will be a success.

When you look in their eyes you get a sense they've all decided "we won't let you down, we won't let the country down" and that they're going to make the World Cup work.

I go home sometimes to Port Elizabeth over weekends and I always go past the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium to see its progress. And on every one of those days I have found the workers on site, so I'm not at all surprised that it is the first newly built stadium to have already officially opened - a full year before the tournament kicks off.

And at Soccer City, next door to our headquarters, you will see the workers without fail switch on the lights at 6pm and start working way into the night under floodlights.

It's clear the workers throughout the country understand their task is not just to build stadiums, but also to build confidence in their country.

If you take into account our Fifa Confederations Cup stadiums, five of our 10 2010 Fifa World Cup stadiums are ready and we're very confident the rest will be complete by the end of the year.

If you walk through our headquarters, whether it's at 8am or 8pm, you will find people hard at work - ensuring this project's a success. That gives you confidence that people know what this is about.

We have very few people with experience of managing a World Cup. It's our first after all, but the ability and willingness to learn is there, and the desire and the expertise is there. They understand they're working on a project that's somehow different, a project delivered in the name of a nation.

And with one year to go, host cities have done extremely well, getting into infrastructural and operational readiness.

South Africa has never experienced an event requiring coordination to such an extent. And the extent to which government has organised itself is a model future LOCs will surely use.

Our first bid - for the 2006 Fifa World Cup - started with Nelson Mandela as president, the 2010 bid with Thabo Mbeki and we're now going into the implementation phase of the tournament with Jacob Zuma as president.

We've had three national elections and two local government elections over the course of this project, meaning constant change in the people we have had to deal with. But the commitment from the government has been consistent. The deck chairs may have changed, but the boat's never changed. We're still moving in the same direction - together.

For other measures of our success, one only has to look at the diversity of the volunteers who have so far applied and been recruited. From university graduates to unemployed people, from company chief executive officers, to the poorest of the poor, this event has created a sense of equality, of serving your country, whether rich or poor, educated or uneducated. It has brought them all together as one team.

The 2010 Fifa World Cup must be the beginning of a new era. It must herald an era where our country becomes a major driving force and an active participant in the global economy. The next 16 years are when the teenager that is South Africa becomes an adult.

When some people questioned us, spoke of a "Plan B" and said we would fail, they also questioned Mandela's legacy.

Along with people like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and so many others, Nelson Mandela struggled for a free and democratic South Africa, a South Africa that can compete equally with the best in the world - a country of hope for a brighter future. The World Cup will help bring that goal even closer to reality.

We all know the sacrifices Mandela and countless others made. When we host a successful World Cup in one year's time, delivered by both black and white coming together, I hope Madiba will look back and come to the conclusion that all his efforts were not in vain.

I hope he will be smiling.