July 24, 2006
Infrastructure, construction costs for World Cup a concern in Cape Town
CAPE TOWN, South Africa
Cape Town authorities reluctantly agreed to the construction of a downtown stadium for the 2010 World Cup.
Mayor Helen Zille said construction of the 68,000-seat stadium would begin in January only if the national government guaranteed to pay a majority of the cost — estimated at more than $490 million Cdn.
“We cannot end up with a situation like in Montreal when the grandchildren of the people who made the decisions for the 1976 Olympics are still paying the bill,” Zille said.
Cape Town can only afford to pay $65 million Cdn toward the cost because of problems like the chronic lack of housing and services, Zille added.
President Thabo Mbeki has repeatedly said that the first World Cup in Africa will be a symbol of the continent’s renaissance.
The government has earmarked about $815 million Cdn for building and renovating 10 stadiums, and a further $1.42 billion Cdn on upgrades to airports, roads and railway lines.
However, there has already been speculation that the tournament may be moved given that construction work has barely started and that South Africa’s transport system may not be able to cope with the influx of visitors.
The government and FIFA have dismissed the rumours as baseless and organizing chief Danny Jordaan insists everything is on schedule.
Zille was more wary.
“The killer constraints are time and money,’’ she said. “We have to start turning sods in January, otherwise we can’t meet the time limit.’’
She said Cape Town would bid to host the opening match and a semifinal to justify the cost and capitalize on its stunning scenery.
Cape Town initially planned to host first and second-round matches at its Newlands rugby stadium, leaving Johannesburg to host the opening and final matches.
Durban, the capital Pretoria, the northern town of Polokwane, the northeastern city of Nelspruit near Kruger National Park, the southern port city of Port Elizabeth, and the central town of Bloemfontein are the other venues.
However, the government earlier this year announced plans for a new stadium in Cape Town suitable for a semifinal after pressure from FIFA and its sponsors anxious to benefit from the magnificent backdrop of Table Mountain and the surrounding ocean.
It said the site would be on Greenpoint common, close to the city centre and harbour.
When Zille was elected mayor in March, she ordered an investigation, saying that the stadium was unnecessary, would overwhelm local infrastructure and provoke a financial crisis.
The results of the investigation found that the Greenpoint site was the most feasible option.
Zille said authorities would have preferred to build the stadium in a rundown part of the city centre near the main railway station, but that there wasn’t enough time for negotiations on that site.
She said the Newlands rugby stadium, which would have been refurbished to seat 55,000 fans, was by far the cheapest option, even though FIFA said it was too small and too close to residential areas.
A detailed site analysis said there should be “very high caution’’ about both the cost and the risk involved.
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