South African President Thabo Mbeki visited Berlin to take over the World Cup organizational reigns from Franz Beckenbauer and silence the critics who are saying South Africa's won't be ready to host the 2010 tournament.
From the street to the stadium, South Africans love soccer
After a nearly flawless month of organization, Germany has set a high standard for South Africa when it comes to running the World Cup. But the future hosts are unperturbed by doubts over their ability to stage Africa's first soccer World Cup.
Confident South African soccer officials said they would be up to the task when 2010 comes around. A number of niggling questions remain over the country's ability to host world sport's greatest spectacular.
"We come from a country where soccer is not simply a game but an enduring passion," Mbeki said in Berlin. "We come from a place where our hearts beat in unison as we celebrate a shared destiny and love for the beautiful game."
But it is logistical preparedness, not a lack of passion for the game that has critics concerned.
Ca n South Africa be ready i n time?
Critics wonder if stadium construction and renovations will be done in time
A poor public transport system is seen as the country's biggest concern, with worries over whether it will have the capacity to move the hundreds of thousands soccer fans to descend for the quadrennial event.
"My worry is that they will not be finished with the job," Brazilian soccer legend Pele said of the South Africans.
South Africa also has a poor record when it came to perceptions around crime. Recent reports about a shootout in Johannesburg, in which four policemen and a host of robbers were shot dead, did not help.
But a huge plus counting in South Africa's favor is that it has staged both the Rugby World Cup in 1995 and the Cricket World Cup in 2003 without any major incident.
Last weekend, a media report in the Afrikaans-language Sunday paper Rapport stated that FIFA was already working secretly on a plan to host the cup in Australia should arrangements go wrong in South Africa.
World Cup good for cou n try a n d co n ti n e n t
South Africa 2010 has already decided on their logo
The claim was shot down by both FIFA's officials, including president Sepp Blatter, and South Africa's 2010 organizing committee. The head of FIFA's South Africa office, Australian Michael Palmer, said the world soccer body had very high hopes for Africa's first World Cup.
"From FIFA's point of view, as long as the integrity of the competition is going to be guaranteed, then FIFA will be happy," Palmer told the AFP news agency. "But we have bigger hopes for this -- that the 2010 World Cup will change the world's perception of the African continent and provide wonderful opportunities for people in the future.
"The hope is that it will be the sporting event that does the most good for a country and a continent," Palmer added.
Stadiums n eed buildi n g a n d re n ovatio n
Organizers plan to upgrade five stadiums and build four new ones, though construction on the new stadiums has not yet started.
South Africa is budgeting 5.5 billion rand ($770 million, 601 million euros) for stadiums and a further 8 billion rand to upgrade the country's airports and public transport system.
"The stadiums are a very important issue and they will be ready," said Danny Jordaan, the chief executive of the SA 2010 Soccer World Cup Local Organizing Committee. "There's no margin for error, we cannot fail. As South Africans have done many times before, we are going to succeed."