For those of you planning a trip to FIFA WORLD CUP 2010 you are in for some eye opening suprises. There may be crime, there may be unemployment, but SOUTH AFRICA WORKS !!!
There are some stunning physical, ecological, scenic and wildlife attractions, but what I am in awe of the most is not the negative, but the positive. I am in Sandton City outside Johannesburg and the business capital of The Rainbow Nation. There is a great big hole in the ground The Big Dig, and its the construction for GAUTRAIN the new light rail that will operate in Guateng, linking the Airport, Sandton, Johannesburg and Pretoria the capital about 60 km north. Sandton Convention Centre is hosting www.soccerex.com a convention and trade show for 3,000 soccer business delegates from all over the world. It is linked by a walkway to the fabulous Sandton Shopping Mall, as good as it gets for malls world wide, and well lit, squeeky clean, well policed and with a great food court where my favourite was STEERS, the best hamburger haven on the continent.
I was travelling on the N1 motorway from Pretoria and its 8 lane all the way to Cape Town so I'm told, and by 2010 this and other motorways will be 10 lanes across. You cannot help but see the pathetic townships that are on the edge of all big cities, with cardboard, wood and tarpaulines, near some fabulous housing developments, with metal electronic gates, electric wire fences and Immediate Armed Response signs everywhere. At the gas stations which are well lit and secure the snack food, and groceries at Woolworths Stations was first class, and I visited a Pick N'Save mega food store that had 65 check out counters.
There are an abundance of cell phone companies, big business parks, road and office construction everywhere creating jobs and income, with its multi lingual work force. TV programmes will be talking in English and then interviewers will switch to Zulu, Xhosa, Northern Sutu, Afrikaans for a while. I spoke with mayors, sports leaders and tourist chiefs from all the provinces and all the 10 host cities at SOCCEREX www.soccerex.com and the amount of construction and enthusiasm for the tasks ahead is both overwhelming and exciting. The show is the brain child of CEO, Duncan Revie, the son of Don Revie, the legendary former coach of Leeds United, and inspirational deep inside forward(The Revie Plan) of Manchester City and England. Duncan was educated at a private school in the Isle of Man and then left a law degree course at Cambridge University which he found 'mind numbing'. For the next three years in will be held in Sandton, and boasted a 300% increase`in attendance from the last couple of annual shows in Dubai. Lots of leaders and coaches and technicians of clubs such as Liverpool, Chelsea, Ipswich Town, Galatassary, Real Madrid, Panathaniakos, Kaizer Chiefs, and national associations from Chile to Kenya, Poland to Serbia were networking and swopping business cards.
It's amazing the booths promoting stadium construction, giant in stadium television, ticketing and gate mechanics, team training software, stadium turf, both natural and artificial, fan promotions, sound mechanics, safety and policing techniques, tourist promotion for the 10 South African stadiums and provinces, and much, much more. Next day I go 300 miles north to Nelspruit, to see how this capital of Mpumalanga (formerly eastern Transvaal) is progressing with its new stadium construction and how they are going to cope with the tourists, and then to Kruger National Park to see THE BIG FIVE: Lions, Elephants, Leopards, Buffalo, White Rhinos, plus giraffes, wart hogs, antelope of various kinds, plus wild birds, insects and trees. What a Country !!!