BIG GUNS FOR GAMES
TWENTY heads of state will witness the historical 2010 Fifa World Cup opening ceremony and tournament kickoff at Soccer City in Johannesburg today.
Among them will be Mexican President Felipe Calderon, whose team takes on Bafana Bafana in the opening match at 4pm today.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki will also be there.
"There may be about three more who may eventually respond to the invitations but we have 20 confirmations at this point," department of international relations and cooperation director-general Ayanda Ntsaluba said esterday.
United States Vice-president Joe Biden and his wife Jill have already arrived in the country. The Bidens, who will represent their country, will also attend the US and England game at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, North West, tomorrow.
Ghana President John Atta Mills has arrived for the biggest event on African soil. So has New Zealand prime minister John Key, who said he planned to watch his home team, which qualified for the finals for the first time in 28 years, play against world champions Italy at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, on June 20.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will arrive on July 8, in time for the final match on July 11 at the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg. Da Silva, whose country hosts the next World Cup in 2014, will receive the baton.
Zimbabwean prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara will also attend.
"We expect other heads of state to arrive when their teams are about to play. Many former heads of state are also coming," Ntsaluba said.
Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir will not be coming. Al-Bashir, who is wanted by the international criminal court in The Hague for allegedly committing crimes against humanity, turned down the invitation.
Ntsaluba said everything was in place and security had been prioritised.
"We are satisfied with the security arrangements. Guests will receive the necessary security while in South Africa," he said.