26 October 2006

South Africa: Soccer - SA Cup Costs Escalate

Nairobi — South Africa will spend 15.1 billion rand ($1.98 billion) on the 2010 World Cup, the National Treasury said on Wednesday, as the bill for hosting the soccer tournament continued to escalate.

Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, in his Medium Term Budget Policy Statement to Parliament, said 8.4 billion rand will be used for the construction and upgrading of stadiums and the development of the surrounding precincts.

A further 6.7 billion rand will be allocated to host cities to help improve public transport and defray other costs surrounding the championship.

Manuel's estimate of government spending followed a 12 billion rand projection earlier this month by the country's World Cup organising committee - itself a sharp increase from the 2.3 billion rand estimate made when South Africa won the bid to host the event in 2004.

Concerns have been raised over whether South Africa will meet its obligations with time running out to refurbish five stadiums and construct five more.

Public transport is also poor in Africa's largest economy, characterised by old, often dangerous minibus taxis and an overcrowded, unreliable train service.

Manuel said South Africa's government was determined to ensure the first soccer World Cup on African soil would be a resounding success and extra money would be spent on policing, arts and culture, emergency medical services and border control for 2010.

Much of the new costs are associated with building soccer stadiums.

The Treasury said planned stadiums would meet world soccer controlling body FIFA's requirements, although critics have said some, including 70,000-seater stadiums in Cape Town and Durban, could wind up as white elephants in a country where the national soccer league struggles to fill smaller venues.

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