South Africa outlines 2010 World Cup spending

CAPE TOWN, South Africa – The South African government will spend 17.4 billion rands ($2.85 billion Canadian) over the next three years on stadiums and infrastructure for the 2010 World Cup.

Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said Wednesday that 8.4 billion rands ($1.38 billion) would go to building or upgrading the 10 soccer stadiums to be used in the tournament, with about nine billion rands ($1.48 billion) to improve transportation and roads around the stadiums.

There has been concern over the spiralling stadium costs – as well as endless construction delays and legal challenges. Some cities have complained that the central government has not allocated enough funding and that the burden of meeting the bill will fall on local authorities and residents.

But Manuel said that World Cup organizers had reached an agreement with local authorities on budgets for the construction of stadiums and that these were within the 8.4-billion-rand target.

"These agreements set a firm precedent – that we must go out of our way to ensure a successful tournament and a lasting legacy beyond 2010, but fiscal prudence and sound budgeting principles must be adhered to at all time," Manuel told parliament.

He also stressed that the stadium should not have "bells and whistles" but merely seek to conform with minimum FIFA requirements in order to minimize costs at a time when South Africa is also struggling to provide decent housing and sanitation for its poor black majority.

"If people want iconic stadiums, then they must fund them from elsewhere," said Deputy Finance Minister Jabu Moleketi, who is in charge of the 2010 costs.

He said he was confident that South Africa would have the necessary infrastructure in place for the tournament.

The government is also spending billions to upgrade the country's airports to cope with the anticipated 450,000 foreign tourists, and to overhaul the railway network and modernize the fleet of aging and often dangerous minibus taxis, which form the backbone of the transport system.

Manuel said resources going to the police over the next three years would rise by 34 per cent from 33 billion rands ($5.4 billion) in the last budget year to 44 billion rands ($7.2 billion) in 2009-10. He said this would be used to raise their numbers to nearly 190,000 men and improve pay rates often blamed for low morale.

Cape Town, which is due to host a semifinal match, gets the biggest slice of the stadium budget, with 1.9 billion rands ($311 million) in funds going toward the construction of a 68,000-seat stadium.

Cape Town's city council only reluctantly agreed late last year to proceed with the stadium, fearing they would be crippled by the cost. There have been added problems with legal challenges from local residents worried about noise and congestion and the stadium's impact on property prices in a prime real estate area.

Manuel earmarked 1.8 billion rands ($295 million) for a new stadium in Durban, which is also due to host a semifinal match. There have also been unforeseen delays in Durban because of court challenges between rival tender companies.

Johannesburg's Soccer City, which is due to host the opening match and the final, was allocated 1.5 billion rands ($245 million) for a complete upgrade to its facilities.

Huge economic strides and the end of South Africa's sporting isolation at the end of apartheid made the country a strong candidate to become the first African nation to host the World Cup.

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