Hosts ready to deliver World Cup party
The partying is over - now comes the hard part. After a weekend of celebration following Friday's glittering draw for next summer's World Cup finals, South Africa has returned to a semblance of normality.
Many South Africans resigned themselves to an early exit after the draw but that did not seem to dampen the atmosphere at Cape Town's main party venue, the city's trendy Long Street. Local and foreign fans, many with flags of their favourite teams painted on their faces, thronged the bars and restaurants.
Yet questions still remain about whether this diverse country will be ready in six months' time to stage the greatest sporting jamboree on earth - and not just on the pitch.
Take the morning of the draw as an example. Returning to the cavernous media centre in the heart of Cape Town after a press briefing, this correspondent and scores of other scribes and cameramen were denied entry as a bomb scare sent local authorities into a mild state of panic.
As sirens wailed, bomb disposal experts in what looked like chemical warfare outfits converged on the building, along with angry-sounding sniffer dogs and gun-wielding uniformed police.
As it happened, an unidentified journalist - that's right, a journalist - had plonked his bag down at the entrance security check, screamed that there was a bomb in it and scarpered. There was no device as it happened, apart from a camera, and the offending journalist - we are yet to know whether he was officially accredited or bogus - was later apprehended and rightly arrested.
Bizarrely and as an example of how sensitive the authorities are to criticism, the police chief who gave details of the crime freely gave out his mobile phone number in case there were any follow-up questions.
The whole incident gave a taste of how strong the security machine will be when it kicks into action next summer as a predicted 450,000 fans and 15,000 media descend on cities across the country.
On the plus side, however, you could not help but get swept up by the ambiance of the whole occasion. This is not just a World Cup for South Africa but the whole of the continent and Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the organising committee, certainly delivered on the promise of a world-class draw, which triggered a wave of passion on a night that sparkled with rhythm and soul.
"What we have to do now is to keep that passion and support for the World Cup alive, not just in terms of what happens on the field but also in terms of selling tickets," Jordaan said.
The next phase of ticket sales has just opened after the original distribution of 674,403, roughly half of which have gone to the host nation. But there remain some challenges ahead; not least England's opening game against the USA. Not only are the pair of them number one and two in terms of demand for tickets but Rustenberg is one of the smallest venues.
A worrying black market looms, though Jordaan insists he cannot be held responsible for the country's appalling social crime statistics.
"Any sports team you mention who has been to South Africa will tell you they were safe," Jordaan said. "When you come here we take care of everyone, from journalists, to teams, to fans. We have had 141 major sports events and we have not failed any of them in terms of safety."
But Jordaan misses one crucial point. No other sporting event comes close in terms of logistics to the World Cup. More than 140,000 extra police are being drafted in with 100,000 more in reserve. Government figures list up to 50 murders a day but that, says Jordaan, isn't his problem.
"Societal crime isn't my responsibility and no event in the world can accept such responsibility. It happens in socially deprived areas. I think South Africa's safety record is second to none."
So is the country's ability to party. On Saturday evening, a string of winsome beauties, all dressed in fetching lime green outfits, welcomed delegates and media to an official beach party at Cape Town's waterfront. The hypnotic mix of music and dancing that followed was the perfect way to unwind and a wonderful end an intense 48 hours of footballing drama.
It was also the perfect memory to take away - at least until the action begins next June, the real test of whether South Africa can actually pull it off.