It was 2 117 days ago that Nelson Mandela slowly walked into the World Trade Centre in Zurich, supported by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and the rest of South Africa's 2010 bid delegation. He was 85 years old then, and bent over with age. He took his seat. Moments later, images of Mandela clutching the World Cup trophy were beamed across the globe. Madiba stood tall.
In South Africa, people leapt for joy, they shouted, they laughed, they smiled, they cried. The vuvuzela never sounded sweeter. The people of Africa were finally entrusted with sport's greatest prize. A nation once despised by the world had been chosen to play the role of gracious host.
And the host is ready - or rather it will be ready.
Today marks 100 days before the kickoff of the World Cup. The magical mark is a time for honest assessment of how much more needs to be done. It's a time when South Africa's preparations are stripped down to the nuts and bolts, the paint and the tar. It's time for South Africa to show its hand.
Today The Star reveals the 100 things that need to be done before kick-off. With 100 days to go, it is imperative to sort out things like the disaster management centre and the Bus Rapid Transit system, but also small things like fixing traffic lights and planting grass in stadium precincts.
Then there's the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, which will be ready just weeks before the tournament. That's too close for anyone's comfort - not least of all Fifa. The road to the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg is also not complete - nor is the Gautrain, but it will be, so we're told. The issue of crime is still being addressed at a security conference in Zurich this week. The checklist is long.
For the fans, 100 days means the World Cup is so close they can almost taste it.
For Freddy "Saddam" Maake, Gladys Gailey and Nelly Kubayi, arguably Bafana Bafana's most passionate supporters, it feels like the grand spectacle is only a day or two away, but they are worried about the lack of enthusiasm.
"The World Cup is just around the corner, but we don't see any fervour. It's a bit of a concern," said Maake, speaking from Durban, where he will join tonight's Fifa and local organising committee festivities to mark 100 days to kickoff.
Gailey said: "Not so long ago, we were talking about (what) the world would be like in the year 2000, and suddenly 2010 is upon us. It's amazing how time flies, and before we know it, it will be June 11."
Gailey and Kubayi said they would be developing special traditional outfits that will distinguish them from the crop of Bafana supporters.
"I prefer to keep it a secret because every time I come up with this design, other supporters copy it. All I can say is that it will be a truly African outfit that will make people identify me," Gailey said.
Kubayi said: "I already have my World Cup outfits knitted and I am waiting for June 11. It's decorated with the South African colours, with an African touch, because this is an African World Cup."
But the journey to Soccer City has been a painful one. Ordinary South Africans have borne the brunt of a constantly changing landscape. State-of-the-art stadiums and hotels have sprouted, highways and airports have expanded. For the past six years, South Africans have lived in one giant construction site and have aged in the traffic jams.
The promise of June 11, 2010 will make all that pain worth it.
Source: Adrian Ephraim and Lebogang Seale (The Star, South Africa)
Last edited by Veritas; 2nd March 2010 at 09:26 AM.