- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 27, 2010

JOHANNESBURG | The world soccer’s governing body says one-third of World Cup tickets remain unsold less than five months before the first tournament held in South Africa.

About 1 million of the 3 million tickets are still available, FIFA officials said Wednesday. South Africans and Americans had made the most bids for tickets in the third round of sales, which will be settled by lottery on Monday.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke dismissed concerns that South Africa — notorious for its high crime rates — would be dangerous for visiting fans.

“Don’t kill the World Cup before the World Cup is taking place,” Valcke said. “I mean give us a chance. Give South Africa a chance to organize a great World Cup. Give a chance to people to fly to South Africa and don’t tell them every day that they should not fly to South Africa.”

FIFA has received 1.2 million ticket applications from 192 countries for the Feb. 1 draw and said that the semifinal and final matches are attracting the most demand. Some 960,000 applications came from South African residents, who are eligible for cheaper tickets.

U.S. residents sent in some 50,000 applications, followed by Britain with 41,000. Neighboring Botswana, Mozambique and Namibia made a combined 5,500 bids.

Two ticket draws remain before the World Cup begins June 11.

Valcke’s words echoed those of South African President Jacob Zuma. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Zuma said Wednesday that his country would ensure the safety of fans.

South Africa has one of the world’s highest murder rates, with at least 50 people killed each day. The country plans to beef up police and training by investing in high-tech equipment and crime-busting surveillance to combat crime as well as threats from terrorists and hooligans.

Safety fears mounted after three people were killed this month when the Togo national soccer team bus was attacked en route to the African Cup of Nations in Angola.

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