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Press Review, FIFA World Cup 2010

25. June 2009

Obama to attend 2010 Opening Ceremony

United States president Barack Obama has accepted an invitation to attend the opening ceremony of the 2010 World Cup final in Johannesburg on June 11. "The president of the United States has been invited to the opening ceremony of the 2010 World Cup. He has accepted our invitation," Fifa president Sepp Blatter said during media discussion in Johannesburg.

"But you know that heads of state are extremely busy and hopefully his schedule will allow him to attend," he added.

Blatter was replying to questions relating to security and how confident Fifa was of a successful World cup being hosted by South Africa.

The opening ceremony would be performed at the new ultra modern 100,000-seater Soccer City. The match would feature either hosts Bafana Bafana or defending world champions Italy.

Obama, whose father was born in Kenya, had never visited Africa as the leader of the free world.

Blatter again stressed he had full confidence in South Africa's ability to host a successful World Cup.

"In past years the reason that the World Cup has never been staged in Africa is because people in the rest of the world did not  trust Africa.

"I trust Africa and South Africa. It is time the rest of the world did the same. The world will see a fantastic spectacle in Africa in 2010. South Africa are going to make everyone proud of Africa."

The test event, the Confederations Cup, was a success on and off  the field and augured well for the 2010 showpiece.

"The Confederations Cup is a sort of dress rehearsal where we can iron out problems. It has been a major success. My worry at the  start of the competition was that some stadiums were not full, and that has been rectified by the local organising committee.

"Now that Bafana Bafana are through to the semifinals we can expect full houses during the semifinals and final."

Blatter, paraphrasing Obama, said: "South African can do it."

Problems that arose with ticketing and transport would be solved by 2010, he added.

The world soccer chief added that it was not about Fifa making millions of dollars from the Confederations Cup and World Cup in South Africa. He explained:

"The finances are not as important as it is to give something back to Africa, and that is what Fifa is doing with the 2010 World Cup. Africa deserve to stage the World Cup."

He reiterated that under no circumstances would vuvuzelas be banned at the World Cup. Foreign media and teams competing in the Confederations Cup had complained about the "buzzing noise" at matches.

"Banning them no, in fact I will blow one of the vuvuzelas at my  press conference in Johannesburg on Friday. Vuvuzelas make the South Africa game come alive. It is part of the local culture and adds to the flavour of SA soccer."

Blatter said he was not worried about crime.



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