44% of South Africans Think the Country "Won't be Ready" for 2010

Maybe it's a measure of their current insecurity, but regular polling of South African citizens on the subject of the World Cup SHOWS A STEADILY DECLINING LEVEL OF CONFIDENCE that they will be able to pull it off.

To be sure, this pessimism may be at least partly due to the economic conditions currently affecting the entire planet: soaring oil and food prices make everyone uneasy.

In the West, however, changing conditions like these cause belt tightening and reassessment but in the end we know that the hits will be more or less accommodated. In poorer, less developed nations whose economic health is precarious to begin with they can be the harbingers of economic disaster, and it's not surprising if their overall level of optimism about the future in general is plummeting.

But there are more concrete concerns as well; from the beginning, FIFA has said that SA's hosting of next year's Confederations Cup would serve as a sort of dry run for the WC, proving their level of readiness.

In the planning stages, they included only one of the new stadiums, Port Elizabeth/Nelson Mandela Bay, but they stressed at the time how important it was that it be part of the tournament, to show that SA was making concrete progress.

Well, FIFA has now DROPPED PORT ELIZABETH FROM THE SCHEDULE concluding that it simply won't be ready. Local organizers disagree, but nobody else thinks FIFA acted on a whim.

And a new concern is cropping up, one that nobody saw coming: HIGH END RESTAURANTS AND SHOPS IN PORT ELIZABETH/NELSON MANDELA BAY are being forced to close due to the skyrocketing costs of operations.

It seems highly unlikely that the government can afford - monetarily or politically - to heavily subsidize restaurants and stores so that football tourists will have places to eat, but if these places are forced to close, exactly what is the alternative?

And for the record, while PLANS TO LEGALIZE PROSTITUTION for the duration of the tournament may serve as an enticement to many, the customers may end up having to ask the hookers to skip the sex and cook them dinner.

Still, SA is bravely pushing forward. In an effort to quell security concerns they're conducting a high profile SECURITY EXERCISE in Port Elizabeth later this month. It's unlikely to comfort much of anyone.

For irony fans, the RECENT PASSING OF CHARLES DEMPSEY comes with exquisite timing. He's the FIFA board member from New Zealand who abstained from voting in 1999, thus sending the 2006 World Cup to Germany when it appeared that Sepp Blatter had South Africa in the bag.

SA would have had a much easier time pulling this off in 2006, and the question of just what Charlie hath wrought remains unanswered.