The South African government and FIFA say the country is ready to welcome teams and fans from around the globe and, more important, will keep them safe for the World Cup. Organizers estimate 373,000 visitors will come for the event.
"We are ready for any eventuality, from terrorism threats down to petty crime," South African Police Service (SAPS) spokesperson Vish Naidoo said.
South Africa has spent $180 million on World Cup security preparations, according to a USA Today report. That includes $89 million on equipment such as helicopters, water cannons, patrol vehicles and body armor.
While South Africa's murder rate has declined since 2004, it is eight times higher than that of the U.S., the report says. In Gauteng, a province that's home to 10.5 million people and the World Cup host cities Johannesburg and Pretoria, there were 1,940 violent crimes reported for every 100,000 people in 2008.
While crime in South Africa is commonly portrayed in media reports as an attack against the white minority, much of the violence is confined to townships, underdeveloped areas on the peripheries of the city, says the report. There will be 44,000 officers assigned to tournament-related duties, Naidoo said. They will oversee route security, border control and crowd management. That is in addition to the more than 100,000 officers carrying out normal duties, Naidoo said. Naidoo said the police would also be working with Interpol and security agencies from the USA and all other countries sending teams for the tournament. FIFA provides its own security inside the stadiums.
Despite the assurances, the U.S. State Department issued an alert last week to Americans traveling for the event. "While a number of terrorist threats against the World Cup in South Africa have appeared in the media, the U.S. government has no information on any credible threat of attack that any individual or group is planning to coincide with the tournament," the State Department said.