Navy ready to defend World Cup

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The South African Navy says it is ready to protect coastal FIFA soccer World Cup sites and will deploy a Valour-class frigate to help provide air defence for the Greenpoint stadium in Cape Town, the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban and the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth.

The defence force is to spend R235 million protecting the soccer spectacular, in addition to the R600 million the police have budgeted.

The frigates will use their Thales Navale MRR 3D E/F-band search radars to assist the South African Air Force build up a comprehensive air picture over each stadium and its environs. The SAAF is tasked with maintaining a 50km “no-fly” zone around each stadium on match days. The ships can transmit their radar-pictures real-time to the Air Force Command Post in Pretoria or to Gripen fighters tasked with intercepting aircraft intruding into these areas using Link ZA.

Should it be required the ships can also use their weapons that include 76mm, 35mm and 20mm cannon and Denel Dynamics Umkhonto short-range infra-red surface-to-air guided missiles. The latter have a range of up to 12km from the ship. The 76mm cannon is effective to 8km and the twin-35mm cannons can range up to 6km in the surface role and 4km against aerial targets.

Navy Flag Officer Fleet, Rear Admiral Robert “Rusty” Higgs says the “reality is three of our stadiums that are very close to the sea … and as such we are very pleased the Navy can play a significant role in ensuring maritime security during the World Cup. The people of SA can depend on the national defence force and on the Navy.
“The potential threats the Cup faces from the sea are asymmetric, it is non-conventional. With modern technology people are able to do things they were unable to do in the past. And as such we are going to have a significant naval presence … that will allow us to detect threats below, on and above the sea, coordinating and working very closely with our air force.” Higgs added in an interview on SABC morning television that the Navy has spent the last two years preparing for the event.

Asked about threats facing the Cup, Higgs said “there are no indications [of any] at this stage, but reality is the seas are the ‘plains of the world’ and things can change very quickly and for that reason we must always be ready and always be prepared for any eventuality. It is important that we be at the top of our game.”

In that regard, Higgs also referred to Exercise Good Hope IV, now underway with the SAAF, as well as the German Navy and Air Force. “We are currently exercising with the German Navy … [in what is] the most complex of the exercises we take part in … exercising with the Germans at the highest level activity in which they take part in outside NATO allows us to sharpen our skills and to make sure we can operate all our equipment effective and efficiently to protect all South Africans.
FIFA to profit, SA to pay

Meanwhile, research by Citibank’s research arm, Citi, suggests that event organiser FIFA will be the major beneficiary of the June 11-July 11 tourney while South Africa, the host nation “carries a disproportionate share of the cost burden”.

Business Report newspaper today quotes Jean Francois Mercier, Citi’s Johannesburg-based economist, as saying “FIFA is only responsible for prize money awarded to the participating teams, and compensation for their travel and preparation costs, which in Germany in 2006 only accounted for €222 million (R2.24 billion). By contrast, the main direct benefits of the event – television and marketing rights – accrue to FIFA, which also cashes in the proceeds from sales of VIP tickets. In the case of the 2006 World Cup in Germany, FIFA’s profit amounted to about €1.4 billion, or 0.7 percent of South Africa’s gross domestic  product (GDP) that year.”

Citi adds assessments of economic benefits made after major sporting events are generally more downbeat than those made prior to the events.

The report also says auditing house Grant Thornton has revised downwards its forecast, made in 2008, that the event will draw 480 000 visitors. Study supervisor Gillian Saunders said yesterday she now estimated between 330 000 and 450 000 visitors. She says the 2008 research was conducted before the collapse of US investment bank Lehman Brothers, which triggered a crisis in financial markets and a global recession.



Pic: The SAS Amatola pictured firing an Umkhonto missile during trials in 2005.