South Africa World Cup organisers fuel doubts

November 21, 2006

JOHANNESBURG, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Organizers of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa prompted more questions than answers on Tuesday when they failed to show up for a news conference to discuss their readiness to host the soccer tournament.

Irvin Khoza, the chairman of South Africa's local organising committee, and other key executives had been scheduled to brief the media at 1100 GMT after a board meeting at an upscale hotel in Johannesburg.

An hour later, the executives had failed to appear and journalists walked out.

'I am as perplexed as you are. I really apologise,' Tumi Makgabo, a spokeswoman for the local organizing committee, told reporters.

Since winning the right to host the tournament, South Africa has struggled to reassure FIFA officials that it can modernize a decrepit public transportation system, build new stadiums and hotels and provide security in a nation with one of the world's highest crime rates.

There have been rumours that the world governing body might move the tournament, the first World Cup to be held in Africa, to Australia if it appeared that South Africa was not making sufficient progress.

Top FIFA officials have repeatedly denied that any plan exists to shift the Cup away from South Africa.