South Africa shows off World Cup arsenal

SECURITY forces paraded their World Cup arsenal through the streets of South Africa's financial capital yesterday, hoping to reassure fans the country will be safe during football's premier event.

SECURITY forces paraded their World Cup arsenal through the streets of South Africa's financial capital yesterday, hoping to reassure fans the country will be safe during football's premier event.

South Africa's high crime rate has been under intense scrutiny since the country was awarded the right to host Africa's first World Cup.

Police have recruited and trained 44000 officers for the event that kicks off on June 11, and bought vehicles, water cannons and other equipment, some of which was on display.

Johannesburg, where the parade was held, has two World Cup stadiums and a third in nearby Pretoria means that this central region of the country will host more World Cup games than any other.

Most of the 32 teams competing in the tournament have their training bases in this area and most of the World Cup visitors are expected to stay in Johannesburg or nearby.

"South Africa will host the safest and most secure Fifa World Cup," Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said. "The force is ready.

"That is the message we shared with South Africans over the past year and that we will be articulating to our 2010 visitors. Police will be everywhere, ready to respond to any eventuality."

His national police chief, Bheki Cele, pledged to leave "no oxygen" for criminals, and added the World Cup would leave a security legacy.

"The resources have been put here, the training will be there to benefit the people of South Africa," Cele said.

Some 200 vehicles were on display yesterday, along with two helicopters and special police squads demonstrating parachuting from aircraft and rappelling down buildings.

Financial experts and construction workers paused to watch in a part of Johannesburg where skyscrapers gleam and hovering cranes attest that more buildings will soon rise.

Banker Lina Chauke belied her sober suit, dancing on high heels and waving a tiny South African flag as the parade passed. She said she believed World Cup visitors would be safe, and that South Africans would be safer because of investments in security made as a result of the country hosting the tournament.

Interpol general secretary Ronald Noble has praised South Africa's preparations for the World Cup, which have included seeking training from other countries.

Interpol, the agency formed to help police around the world work together, is sending 200 experts, while each of the 31 visiting teams will be sending up to eight officers to work with South African police. - Sapa-AP

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