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30.06.2009 Sports News

South Africa passes World Cup test

By The BBC
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By Piers Edwards
BBC, Johannesburg
The final whistle has been blown at the Confederations Cup in South Africa - Brazil walked off with the cup after beating the USA and Spain beat South Africa into third place after extra time.

However, beyond what went on on the pitch, the point of the tournament was to act as a dress rehearsal for next year's World Cup.

So has South Africa passed the test?
During the competition, there were international complaints about the vuvuzela, the long, plastic trumpet loved by local fans.

But in truth, this isn't really an issue - it is part of South African culture and seemingly here to stay.

However, Danny Jordaan, who heads the Local Organising Committee, says that the event has thrown up some fundamental issues that he is keen to address.

"The first one is the Park and Ride which is a new addition to South African sport," he told the BBC.

"Secondly we have to work harder on getting our fans into the stadium early. These are the two that we have to deal with for the World Cup but, overall, we're happy with what we've achieved so far".

Room for improvement
Happy they may be but it is no surprise that Mr Jordaan is concerned by the Park and Ride for it has been shambolic at times and needs real improvements.

The state of the pitches here has also been a problem but that is easy to fix - as organisers are unlikely to play rugby matches on them days before the World Cup.

That was the case ahead of the visit of the British Lions, which in terms of audience numbers is far bigger than the Confederations Cup.

Some 35,000 rugby fans are in the country, stretching South Africa's air capacity to the full.

Tom Corcoran, a British travel agent, says it has not been an easy ride.

"Of our clients, about a third of them have lost their luggage at the airport. It doesn't bode well."

"It has been chaos at the airports, and it is small numbers now - about a tenth of what we are expecting next year.

"A lot of the internal flights are used to business travel so the airlines are used to passengers with just hand luggage but these guys are international travellers so they are coming with 20kg each.

"The airlines seemed to think there was too much luggage for the planes so they had to leave bags behind," he said.

Yet the real problem was that it took two or three days for the bags to arrive, so leaving some fans stranded in shorts during this fierce South African winter.

'Not good for South Africa'
Equally concerning has been the various thefts, with possessions having gone missing from the media centre, as well as already reported incidents involving the Brazilian and Egyptian camps.

Although many sought to gloss over those incidents, the hard reality was they were there.

"I don't think this is any good for South Africa," said Egyptain defender Ahmed Fathi.

"I don't know why it happened but I know everyone is sad about the loss of the money. I don't know what else could be done but i think it is sad."

Nonetheless, other players have been effusive in their praise, including victorious Brazilian Kaka, who said the tournament was exactly what he was expecting from Africa in terms of excitement and passion, particularly from the fans.

Many locals were slightly dismayed by the organisation of the event but many were proud with the way it went.

"Whoever said that Africans can't organise anything is eating humble pie now.

"Look at the crowds - everyone is happy and this is what Africa is all about. The doomsayers are under the bed now that the World Cup has come to Africa. We have to show the world our culture," one South African told me.

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