NELSON Mandela Bay has been given the thumbs up as a host city for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in January.
A Confederation of African Football (CAF) inspection team visited Port Elizabeth at the weekend and gave the city’s infrastructure and facilities to be used for the tournament the green light.
The delegation, led by 2013 Afcon local organising committee chief executive Mvuzo Mbebe, briefly visited the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (south campus), Westbourne Oval, Gelvandale Track and Wolfson Stadium on Saturday.
These venues will be used by the four African teams to be based in Port Elizabeth.
The CAF team also checked on the Radisson Blu, Marine, Paxton and Garden Court Kings Beach hotels and Brookes Hill Suites where the teams would be accommodated.
Mbebe said his team was impressed with the host city’s presentation.
"We are happy with the hotels and the training facilities.”
He said the city’s 2010 Fifa World Cup stadium had been well maintained and the Africa Cup competition would be better than the World Cup games held in Port Elizabeth.
"It’s up to the people of Port Elizabeth to make this event a success. I know there is a huge number of football supporters in this province.
"We are still negotiating on how can we provide an adequate transport system to and from the stadium for the fans.”
Mbebe said the city had done well in hosting the World Cup and they were confident it would host the Afcon matches with distinction.
Provincial operations head Archie Charalambous said he was excited by the positive response from the delegation.
"I’m proud of what we’ve presented to them and I assure you that next year’s football event will be brighter and more African.
"We are ready to welcome the African nations and will host the tournament with dignity and honour.”
Meanwhile, the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality’s sport and recreation portfolio director, Zolile Siswana, said speculation that the city might be stripped of its status as an Afcon host city because of the municipality’s financial woes was baseless.
"We are not aware of any such talk from Safa [SA Football Association]. Even the CAF delegation that was here was satisfied with our readiness for the tournament next year. They said nothing about being stripped of the event,” he said.
"We will continue with our preparations as planned. The financial issues have been discussed by the council and it confirmed it will financially support the preparations to host the tournament.”
Siswana said the municipality would give R10-million towards preparations for the tournament. It expected the provincial and national governments to also help financially.
The African Cup of Nations will run from January 19 to February 10.