Safety a major issue
South Africa's alarming crime rate and the threat of terrorist attacks are the number one priority of 2010 World Cup organisers, but they insisted Monday fans need not worry.
Since South Africa was awarded the tournament four years ago, critics have roused rampant speculation over the country's readiness to host it -- not least because of the incidence of crime, with some 50 murders a day.
Rapes and violent robberies have also reached a level which other African nations recently classified as intolerable.
And following the Mumbai attacks earlier this month, there have also been jitters about safety from terrorist groups.
Danny Jordaan, head of the South African organising committee, said that over the past 14 years South Africa had hosted 11 major events and there had not been any incidents.
"Security for any major event is the most important aspect," he said at a press conference here with FIFA President Sepp Blatter on the sidelines of the Club World Cup, where South Africa's preparedness was the top topic.
"But we have had 11 major events in the last 14 years and not a single incident.
"The fact is that the most peaceful time in Africa is before, during and after football matches."
South Africa will deploy 41,000 police officers specifically for the World Cup, all of whom will be sent for specialised training in crowd control.
More generally, a massive recruitment drive since 2004 will increase general police numbers by 55,000 to 200,000, he added, while millions of dollars are being spent on helicopters, body armour and high-tech bomb disabling equipment.
While the terrorist attacks in Mumbai earlier this month that left 172 dead were a worry, Jordaan said fears of similar atrocities during the World Cup were not a major concern.
"Mumbai was unfortunate but that is the kind of world we live in," he said, adding that organisers were liasing with Interpol on all aspects of security.
"As far as South Africa is concerned, it is not an issue we are overly worried about. But one must take care of that possibility.
"Our authorities have done a lot of work to recognise those possibilities."
Blatter insisted that despite its high crime rate, South Africa should not be singled out as a dangerous country.
"Security is one of the biggest problems we have but it is not only in one city and one country," he said.
"Even in Switzerland (where FIFA is headquartered), we have problems. We trust the government of South Africa to create an event where security is handled as in the last World Cups and at the Olympics in Beijing."
The World Cup will be held in 10 stadiums across the country.