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South Africa Cuts it Close for 2010

South Africa is already facing a race against time in preparation for the 2010 World Cup. Stadiums still need to be built or renovated in nine cities, while airports need to be upgraded, train lines need to be built, thousands of new police officers need to be hired and hotels need to be erected. Indeed, South Africa may face an unprecedented amount of preparation work for a nation hosting the World Cup. Sharon Lafraniere of the New York Times calls the situation "at once nerve-racking and exhilarating, South Africa's own slow-motion, nail-biting contest with itself."

And it could go either way. "It is a wonderful opportunity, and I am sure South Africa will come out of it well," said Paul Browning, a transportation consultant. "We also have the opportunity to fall flat on our face," he quickly added. Browning's comments drive home the point that the South African Football Association is cutting it close. In early January, FIFA, which administers the World Cup, complained that the host had already used up all of the days allotted for stadium construction delays.

Never before has the World Cup taken place in Africa. In fact, according to the economic analysis firm Econometrix, not since Chile was the host of the 1962 World Cup has FIFA awarded its prized tournament to a nation as underdeveloped as this one. South Africa's "dauntingly high" crime-rate, debilitating AIDS epidemic and laundry list of infrastructure problems notwithstanding, FIFA insists that its sticking with South Africa for 2010.

Read the whole story at New York Times »

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