by TRAVIS CLARK
CAPE TOWN, South Africa – For the residents of this city, and the nation of South Africa, December 4 has been a long time coming. Ever since the nation was named as the 2010 World Cup host country back in May 2004, extensive work has been undertaken to ensure that the country would be ready six years later. Now with the draw set to take place, it's all systems go as the 32 nations will know their opponents shortly.
With the draw, the party in South Africa will officially commence. The backdrop of the draw is an extraordinary part of the world, nestled on the southwest corner of the African continent. A picturesque landscape hugs the city, with Table Mountain in the near distance behind Green Point Stadium — the cornerstone of the city's World Cup display, that will play host to group matches just under 200 days from now.
Cape Town is bustling and ready to fire up the party. For those unable to make it into the draw itself, a massive street party is scheduled to air the event to a viewing public. The celebration is expected to last late through the evening, officially ending at midnight, but will likely extend further into the night.
South African fans are eagerly awaiting to hear the Bafana Bafana's group opponents, as the hosts hope to avoid the indignity of becoming the first host to fail in securing group stage qualification. While they have gone through tumultuous times and even poorer results of late, after just one day here it's clear that an entire nation will be united in supporting the team — vuvuzelas in hand, urging their players on towards victory.
There are plenty of questions that can only be answered during the tournament itself. One of the country's biggest challenges is a staggering unemployment rate, which in turn leads to the high crime levels seen. That can't be solved overnight, but travelers to the tournament won't want to worry about that. Transportation is another issue, as a rail system meant to aid travelers failing to meet deadlines. Airports have undergone extensive renovations, but will it be enough to keep the 400,000 expected visitors moving along smoothly? And what about the stadiums themselves? What will become of them after the 64 games have been played out?
Much has been made of stadium controversies, work stoppages, that have plagued the steps taken towards 2010. And like the challenge of overcoming apartheid, there's no simple way to solve the problems of poverty and high crime levels in the short time left.
Even with those problems, next summer's World Cup will be like one never seen before. Hosted by a nation that is still carving out an identity after a long and oppressive time of apartheid, and is just 15 years old. Inspired and led by Nelson Mandela to this point, the burgeoning nation is out to add on to a young legacy. And Cape Town will be sure to start the party in style.