Johannesburg – While it expects some bumps along the way, the Africa Cup of Nations local organising committee (AFCON LOC) has reiterated its stance that it is ready to host the tournament which kicks off this weekend.
“When we started this journey, we said we would try our best to make the continent proud, make the Confederation of African Football (Caf) proud, and ensure spectators get a good experience,” LOC chief executive Mvuzo Mbebe said on Friday.
“We have tried our best, and there will no doubt be glitches along the way and challenges in certain areas, but we believe we are ready.”
Hicham El Amrani, the Caf general secretary, confirmed the target of half-a-million ticket sales had been reached. More than 560 000, of a capacity 850 000, had been sold, which was a record for the continental competition.
“I do not feel it’s appropriate to compare the ticket sales of a tournament of this size to the (2010) World Cup,” El Amrani said.
“Ticket sales are not low. In the history of Afcon, we have never filled the stadiums to this level at this stage.”
Only the opening game had been sold out on the eve of the tournament.
Mbebe said they were confident of filling the National Stadium for the final as well, and while he was pleased they had reached their target, he admitted there were concerns about poor ticket sales in a couple of host cities.
“We are still worried about Rustenburg and Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth) and we want to push to try and sell more tickets in these areas,” he said.
Less than 60,000 seats had been sold for seven matches at Royal Bafokeng Stadium, and while over 100,000 had been sold for the eight games at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, the LOC hoped for a boost in ticket sales during the tournament.
Caf was pleased with preparations, according to El Amrani, and was satisfied with efforts made by the LOC.
“All teams have arrived. There were rumours that some teams would not show up, but they are here.
“With security there are absolutely no worries, and with other organisational matters we are very satisfied.”
Mbebe said more than 4,400 security personnel had been deployed for the duration of the competition.
“We want people to go to the stadiums and enjoy themselves without distractions, so security will be tight.
“There are also over 2,500 volunteers, old and young, who are here to make everyone’s lives easier.”
The tournament starts on Saturday with the opening match between South Africa and Cape Verde Islands at the National Stadium in Nasrec.
A total of 32 matches will be played in five host cities — Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Nelspruit and Rustenburg — with 16 teams taking part in the three-week showpiece.
South Africa was appointed as the host nation in August 2011, due to political turmoil in Libya, which had originally won the bid.
“South Africa had a year or so to prepare for this tournament,” El Amrani said.
“We have to appreciate what they have done. Organising this event is not easy.”