Monday, November 29, 1999

"Mother City" miffed at missing out on party

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With its stunning mountain backdrop, beaches, vineyards and even penguins, South Africa's most visited city Cape Town has little cause to cast its sights elsewhere.But with World Cup matches concentrated around Johannesburg, or within relatively easy reach of South Africa's largest city, visitors are choosing to base themselves in the north of the country instead of in the "Mother City".Some of Cape Town's hotels report they are only 50 percent full and local bars and restaurants are eyeing television footage of the Johannesburg crowds and parties with envy."There are more flags on the cars in Johannesburg, and the tournament vibe is stronger there," said Casey Crafford, a 29-year-old photographer from Cape Town."Maybe it is because no teams are based around here and Cape Town has notoriously bad weather in the winter season. But if Cape Town is less the centre of things then at least it gives other cities a chance to benefit I suppose."While locals turn out in force to the fan zone sites to support South Africa, the hoards of visiting fans the city was expecting simply have not materialised.Cape Town's Green Point stadium has so far hosted France and Uruguay, and Italy and Paraguay, but of the fans streaming to the stadium in blue Italy shirts most had South African accents.MORE WOMEN AND FAMILIES"People are coming but not in the numbers we expected," said Carola Koblitz, a spokeswoman for the city authorities, adding the type of person to be visiting was also a surprise."South Africa was initially expecting 450,000 fans but that estimate is now down to a conservative 200,000. We expected around 80 percent of visitors to be male, but now we are seeing more women and families here."Cape Town, which focuses on high-end accommodation, has seen its hotels far from fully occupied."This is a World Cup driven by the world economic situation, which shows in the numbers and where people are staying," Koblitz said.Some Italians fans visiting the city even arranged a free house swap with families from Cape Town, she said.As a premier tourist destination Cape Town has a highly-developed marketing machine behind it. Brochures spell out the reasons to watch the World Cup from Cape Town stating it is the most beautiful host city of them all, and its water front is the most visited spot in all Africa.The city has spent 8 billion rand on overhauling its transport system and creating attractive walkways to the stadium, including a 2.5 kilometre fanwalk -- which even on match days has seemed a little deserted.However with English and Dutch fans expected to descend on the city for games, Koblitz is confident that will bring an influx visitors to Cape town.England play Algeria at the Green Point stadium on Friday while thousands of orange-clad Dutch fans are expected when Netherlands play Cameroon on June 24. The city will also host matches at all stages until the semi-final.Those who have already arrived are glad they made the trip."Actually we like it here. Everything is much smaller and we feel safer here," said Houssain Ferradi, a 34-year-old fan from Algeria who had just arrived from Johannesburg.(Editing by Michael Holden)
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