Zuma elated at IPL success in South Africa (Lead)

May 25th, 2009 - 3:38 am ICT by IANS  

Shah Rukh Khan By Fakir Hassen
Johannesburg, May 25 (IANS) Five weeks ago, at the start of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Jacob Zuma was helping the African National Congress (ANC) he heads to prepare for national elections. On Sunday night, as South Africa’s president, he was profusely thanking all those responsible for the tournament’s billion rand boost to the country’s economy.

“The heat was definitely on,” Zuma said, echoing the IPL-2 tagline as he officially closed off the series at the New Wanderers Stadium here Sunday night.

Zuma described as an “unpleasant task” his declaration that the IPL-2 was now officially closed, while also indicating the country’s willingness to host it again if necessary.

“The IPL has revitalised our economy with over one billion rand being spent. Our country has benefited from advertising spend, tourism spend, and global exposure that the month long tournament has brought,” Zuma said after getting thunderous applause as he greeted the people with a “namaste”.

“We would not be amiss to hosting the tournament again, should the need arise.”

Singling out Kolkata Knight Riders, Deccan Chargers and Delhi Daredevils, Zuma said: “A few months ago, only a handful of South Africans had heard about (these teams). Today, they are household names across the country and in just a month, this T20 cricket series has worked its way into the hearts of South Africans and become a firm favourite.

“We now understand why the series had brought India to a halt whenever a match was on.”

Zuma thanked those responsible in both South Africa and India for putting the tournament together at such short notice, lauding those who had made sure that the logistical challenges of a huge number for hotel rooms and extra flights to South Africa were met.

“This displays, once again, our country’s ability to host tournaments of this magnitude.”

Zuma said the successful conduct of the IPL had proven South Africa’s capacity to host the FIFA Confederations Cup next month and the FIFA 2010 World Cup next year.

Thanking the cricketers and fans who had contributed to the IPL success, Zuma referred specifically to the Bollywood stars who had been present with their teams.

“Many in South Africa appreciated the presence of the Bollywood heroes and heroines. Thank you to Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Shilpa Shetty, among others, for making the trip to our country.”

IPL chairman and commissioner Lalit Modi told South Africans in his closing address that he would be “eternally grateful for opening your hearts and minds and embracing us.

“Even we have been surprised by the optimism of this country of yours. It will remain a fact that IPL-2 was a success because of the people of South Africa.”

Modi said total ticket sales for IPL-2 had exceeded any other international event ever held in South Africa.

To the Indian fans who had been faithfully following the proceedings on television, Modi said: “We promise we will return next year bigger and better.”

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