World Cup organizers: We have delivered

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — World Cup organizers insisted Tuesday they have delivered on all their promises and said ticket sales are approaching the record set at the 1994 tournament in the United States.

"We are closer and closer to the best World Cup ever in terms of ticketing, which was USA in 1994, so it's an amazing result in South Africa," FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said.

About 3.6 million tickets were sold for the 1994 tournament.

Valcke's statement was unthinkable six weeks ago when the event was beset by ticketing problems, with a massive 500,000 seats still unsold. South African sales have received a huge boost after FIFA agreed to over-the-counter releases, where fans could finally buy tickets for cash. Organizers say they sold 100,000 tickets in less than two days last week.

Following a final meeting of its board before the World Cup kicks off, the organizing committee also said the tournament's 10 stadiums were ready and had all been tested.

"That we are on the verge of something truly unique and memorable is undoubted," local organizing committee chairman Irvin Khoza said at a media briefing in Johannesburg. "There were many who questioned the scale of our ambitions, but we have proved them wrong."

The newfound confidence was echoed by FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who also attended the meeting at the luxurious Sandton Sun Hotel, and said organizers had done "a great job."

However, a South African workers' union said earlier Tuesday it wanted people to boycott the June 10 World Cup Kickoff Concert, FIFA's first official event of the tournament.

The Creative Workers' Union of South Africa said it is still unhappy that not enough local artists have been included in the concert's lineup.

Critics also say there are still outstanding transport problems, with fans experiencing traffic gridlock and long delays in recent test games at Soccer City in Johannesburg and the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.

And Valcke conceded last week's ticketing problems — where systems crashed and caused frustration and delays for fans — were "not very professional."


Associated Press writer Tshego Letshwiti contributed to this report.