More than 450,000 flock to WC so far - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

More than 450,000 flock to WC so far

16/06/2010 10:39:51 AM Comments (0)

The number of World Cup fans who have come to South Africa so far already approaches the most optimistic estimates for the tournament, according to the immigration ministry, which put the figure at more than 450,000 on Tuesday.

Deputy Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba told reporters Tuesday that 456,423 visitors who arrived between June 1-13 identified themselves as having come for the World Cup.

"We are quite sure that this figure will continue increasing as the World Cup progresses," Gigaba said.

Before the World Cup opened June 11, estimates of how many people would come had gone as high as half a million. But the estimates had steadily dropped amid fears enthusiasm would be dampened by the worldwide recession, the country's high crime rate and concerns South Africa would not be able to pull off such a high-profile event.

The question of how many will come is crucial for two reasons.

South Africans hope for a short-term economic boost because of visitors' spending. What is more important, they see the World Cup as an opportunity to attract even more tourists in coming years because of the international TV attention football's premier event is bringing, and because fans here now are expected to return to their home countries and describe their visit in glowing terms.

But not all the visitors are welcome. Gigaba said 79 travellers had been turned back, among them 11 Argentines and one Briton who were refused entry because they were believed to be football hooligans.

The minister would not name the home countries of the 68 others, who also were apparently suspected of being hooligans.

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