About the Author: Sharon Hudson-Dean serves as the press attache at U.S. Embassy Pretoria.
There's a lot of talk in the media, both local and international, about whether or not South Africa is ready to host the World Cup. On the one hand, it's a philosophical debate, because this tournament is happening whether the road construction is finished or not. Christmas happens even if you didn't finish your shopping, and everyone generally has a good time. But on the other hand, South Africa is ready. The finishing touches are being put on the stadiums, the teams are arriving each day -- Mexico and Chile arrive today -- and the Gautrain express train between or Tambo airport and Sandton, Johannesburg, was inaugurated to great fanfare this morning.
Yesterday, I visited the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenberg, and it certainly looks ready. The temporary media studios have crisp new carpets and a spectacular view of the action. The pitch, sown with top quality seed straight from the United States, is massive and smooth like a giant putting green. And the officials there are set to welcome 45,000 fans, numerous VIPs, ESPN, and Britain's ITV, among thousands of other journalists coming to cover the U.S.-England game on June 12.
Holding the first World Cup in Africa has put a lot of pressure on South Africa. The two questions our ambassador is always asked are: "Is South Africa ready for the Cup?" and "Are you happy with the security arrangements?" An event of this nature is a massive logistical undertaking and brings with it potential security threats, from petty crime to terrorism. For those reasons, my security colleagues have been in detailed planning discussions with the South African police for over a year, and my consular colleagues released a comprehensive travel alert just on the Cup. Both sections are bringing in added manpower, and we have run crisis management exercises internally. We're ready and, as the ambassador answers each time, we are confident the South Africans have laid a good foundation for a safe and spectacular World Cup in South Africa.
The greatest international sports event ever -- papers today reported that three billion people worldwide will watch -- is more than just a test of South African planning. It is "Africanizing" the world's most popular game. When the United States hosted the Cup in 1994, it was more like "soccerizing" Americans, but Africans love soccer, and this Cup will definitely put the African stamp on a game dominated by Europeans and Latin Americans.
The most noticeable and potentially long-lasting truly African difference will be the vuvuzelas. Quintessentially South African, these long plastic trumpets sound like elephants calling across the bush and are the bane of broadcasters, who failed to get FIFA to ban them. FIFA rightfully said no. Soccer in this country without vuvuzelas would be just plain wrong -- like American football without the wave. Instead, every foreign tourist and soccer fan will buy a vuvuzela in their team's colors, blow it at the games, and take it home as the ultimate South African souvenir. And maybe, just maybe, we'll hear a chorus of vuvuzelas at the next L.A. Galaxy and Manchester United games.
To view photos from the U.S. Embassy Pretoria, click here.Follow the U.S. Embassy Pretoria on Facebook and Twitter.For information on the World Cup in South Africa, visit the U.S. Mission's website.To view Sharon Hudson-Dean's previous entry, click Ambassador Gips: "South Africa's Moment to Shine". To view Sharon Hudson-Dean's next entry, click U.S. Soccer Team Connects With South African Youth.