KIMBERLEY, South Africa (AP) — Chief local organizer Danny Jordaan marked the 50-day countdown to the World Cup on Wednesday, saying the tournament was one of South Africa's "most important defining moments."
Jordaan said hosting soccer's showcase tournament was one of a series of "significant moments that have shaped the country we live in today," comparing it to Nelson Mandela's release from prison in 1990 and South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994.
Jordaan was in Kimberley, in the country's Northern Cape province, with South African President Jacob Zuma to mark the 50-day countdown to Africa's first World Cup.
A series of celebrations are planned at the Galeshewe Stadium on Wednesday, 50 days before the host nation kicks off the 2010 tournament against Mexico on June 11 at Soccer City Stadium.
Jordaan said South Africa will defy the skeptics who thought the country was incapable of hosting the tournament because of its high rate of violent crime and erratic transport system.
"The world has heard so many stories about us (since 1994), sometimes more negative than positive," Jordaan said. "But this World Cup gives all South Africans the opportunity the show the world who we really are 16 years into our democracy."
Zuma has said the country was "more than ready" to host soccer's biggest event.
Jordaan said the 10 World Cup stadiums were ready, and the needed infrastructure was in place.
He also said tickets "were selling fast" despite worries over empty stadiums when organizers put 500,000 unsold tickets on sale on April 15.