Despite budget limitations and a tight schedule, the local organising committee (LOC) for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) is confident that South Africa will pull off a successful tournament.
The Afcon tournament starts at Johannesburg's FNB Stadium on Saturday, 19 January, when Bafana Bafana face Cape Verde in the opening match, and ends on 10 February.
A three-man LOC delegation, including chairperson Mwelo Nonkonyana and CEO Mvuzo Mbebe, briefed Parliament's portfolio committee on sport and recreation in Cape Town on Tuesday on the country's readiness to host the championship to decide Africa's premier football nation.
"There may be areas where we'll have to tighten the belt. But I can assure the country that we are going to do a good job," Mbebe said.
One such measure is that LOC board members are not taking salaries or allowances.
According to a summary of its budget, the LOC expects an income of R335 200 860, of which an amount of R205 043 200 represents grants from various government departments. Total expenses are forecast to total R334 667 721, with a surplus of R534 139 projected.
Mbebe told the committee that the LOC was acutely aware of the enormous responsibility it carried. "We hosted the [2010 Fifa] World Cup and got nine out of ten. We don't want less than that for Afcon."
'Full stadiums' the aim
Mbebe said the LOC had set itself some goals, chief among which was getting the nation behind the tournament - and into the stadiums. "We need everybody's support to do everything in our power to make sure that the stadiums are full."
Tickets for the competition went on sale in September. Sales have been brisk. "The response from the public has been phenomenal to a certain extent. We are not doing too badly," Mbebe said.
In the first phase of the sales drive, the LOC had anticipated that 10 000 tickets would be sold. But a total of 19 966 tickets were snapped up by fans. Currently, between 1 200 and 1 500 tickets are being sold daily.
Buoyed by the manner in which soccer fans are buying tickets, Mbebe was optimistic that by 20 December, a total of 350 000 tickets, or 70 percent of all tickets, would have been sold.
Asked how Bafana Bafana's performance would affect ticket sales, he said that the LOC was encouraging fans to support the national team as South Africans, but also to support teams playing in each of the host cities.
Mbebe said that, unlike at the 2010 World Cup, teams would be based in the cities they had chosen as their bases until they were knocked out of the competition.
He said attendance in Durban might be affected if South Africa was knocked out of the competition in the quarterfinals.
The portfolio committee chairman, Richard Mdakane, said: "We hope that Bafana Bafana won't let us down. It will be important for Bafana to win it. All South Africans will be happier generally if they see their team win."
Enthusiasm was also big among volunteers. A call for volunteers to help during the tournament was expected to be answered by 5 000, but 26 000 people had responded.
The committee was assured that safety and security was a priority.
Further, in an effort to thwart corruption, the referees will be secluded in a hotel near Pretoria, "where nobody will have access to them". The referees will leave this venue escorted by security officials a day before match day.
"It's a credibility and security issue," Mbebe said.