Fifa draw, derby put Durban in tourism spotlight

Fifa draw, derby put Durban in tourism spotlight
David Christianson

DURBAN — This weekend’s Fifa 2010 preliminary draw in Durban gives the city first bite at positioning itself for the expected 2010 tourism influx, with thousands of local and international journalists and delegates flooding the city.

Provincial Premier Sbu Ndebele has said he regards the draw as a golden opportunity to market KwaZulu-Natal to the world.

It will also be SA’s first opportunity to showcase its preparations for the 2010 World Cup.

Peter Bendheim of Durban Africa, the city’s tourism agency, said yesterday that while official Fifa delegates and international journalists numbered about 3000, another 20000 visitors were expected.

“Every decent hotel room is sold out this weekend,” he said.

Durban has about 22000 hotel rooms and Bendheim said the influx would generate about R50m for the city.

Attractions this weekend include football matches in the city, including the Orlando Pirates-Kaiser Chiefs derby, the premier screening of the movie More than a Game and a beach party.

Local DA leader John Steenhuizen is worried that the event will be something of a “Potemkin Village”, amid allegations this week that the city’s metro police were removing street children from their beachfront haunts.

The term comes from 18th century Russian General Grigori Potemkin, who had a series of fake prosperous villages constructed to conceal the squalor of rural Russia during a tour by Empress Catherine the Great.

Street children, who have been linked to beachfront crime, were allegedly removed in a metro police operation this week and taken to homeless shelters.

One unnamed social worker was quoted in a local newspaper as saying some children had been charged with loitering and had been taken to Westville Prison outside Durban.

The newspaper also reported a notable lack of street children at robots.

Metro police spokes-person Thomas Tyala yesterday denied the allegations, saying that to the best of his knowledge there had been no such operation by his department.

Steenhuizen said the city needed a long-term solution to the problem of street children.

“This sort of thing has happened before, notably around the Common-wealth Heads of Government Meeting and the World Aids Conference.”

Steenhuizen suggested the street children would be best dealt with by providing grants-in-aid to local nongovernmental organisations, such as I-Care, which focus on rehabilitating the home-less.

Security in the city has been beefed up in all areas where activities around the draw will take place. These include the International Convention Centre (ICC), Durban International Airport, hotels and other tourist destinations.

The SA Police Service said yesterday that more than 1 000 extra “law enforcement officers” would be deployed across the province for the weekend.

Police reservists have also been called up to supplement the existing policing operations.

A beachfront resident said the area — where almost all delegates will be staying — has been ‘‘saturated” by police.

“You do not have to wait more than 30 seconds for a police van to drive past,” he said.

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