World Cup said to be on sound financial ground

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The World Cup's head organizer says the tournament is in good financial shape even though FIFA had to hand over an extra $100 million.

Exactly a month before the start of the World Cup, local organizing committee chief executive Danny Jordaan said Tuesday his group has not gone to FIFA "pleading for money."

"We have enough money to deliver the event," Jordaan said when asked about the $100 million injection by FIFA to ensure team training bases were up to par.

"As far as the budget is concerned, I reconfirm what we said, that we have more than 67 percent of the budget intact and to be spent," Jordaan told The Associated Press.

Jordaan said FIFA gave the extra funds without a request from South Africa.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke told BBC Sport on Tuesday that the world body gave organizers the $100 million after concerns were raised over the quality of some training venues.

"We know we had to add some money for the team base camps where some teams were unhappy about the level of the services or the level of the pitches," Valcke said.

Valcke said FIFA agreed to the extra investment at an executive committee meeting in March.

"Nothing can be paid without our approval," Valcke said, "and it's the first time ever that FIFA has worked this much with a local organizing committee."

The investment will take the organizing committee's projected spending on the delivery of the World Cup to $523 million. That does not include the billions the country has spent on stadium and transit infrastructure.

Last week Greg Fredericks, one of Jordaan's top aides, told the AP that money was tight and organizers were under great pressure to stay within budget. The comments appear a long way off Jordaan's statement that more than two-thirds of the original $423 million is still in the bank.

Organizers stressed on Tuesday at Soccer City, the Soweto stadium that's central to the World Cup, that the focus was no longer on South Africa's race to get ready. Instead, they said it was time to celebrate Africa's first World Cup.

Jordaan said ticket sales, once a major worry, had passed the 90 percent mark and he had "no doubt that all matches will be sold out."

Organizers also reassured that transportation and security plans were set and infrastructure was complete despite the constant presence of builders outside Soccer City.

Still, there are outstanding issues.

Organizers have yet to test some stadiums, including the showcase 90,000-seat Soccer City. Durban's Moses Mabhida and Cape Town's Greenpoint stadiums have yet to host games with capacity crowds.

Also, the training grounds are a worry for FIFA, explaining its fast-tracking of extra money Tuesday.

Transportation remains a work in process. South Africa's traditionally erratic, informal system is slowly giving way to a bus system and the Gautrain light rail network — which it was hoped would connect the southern township of Soweto to Johannesburg's international airport and Pretoria to the north. The Gautrain is yet to be complete, and will likely run a reduced service.

There have been instances of violence against bus travelers in Soweto, allegedly linked to South Africa's minibus taxi operations who have seen their profits threatened by the new system and World Cup plans.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa used a parliamentary committee address last week to stress that no one would be allowed to disrupt the World Cup.