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After a decade of planning, $3.5 billion in spending on new and improved stadiums, transportation, and security, and a blizzard of publicity, the quadrennial FIFA World Cup is finally underway in South Africa.
It's an historic moment for the nation of 49 million people located at the southern tip of Africa: Not only is this the first time the World Cup has been played on the African continent, but the championship also symbolizes a coming of age for a nation that only two decades ago was an worldwide pariah for its racist apartheid system—and was banned from most international sporting events.
Today, although South Africa still suffers from high levels of poverty, unemployment, crime, and inequality, it also enjoys a relative measure of peace and is the economic engine of sub-Saharan Africa. Click on for an introduction to the nine cities and 10 stadiums that will play host to the 64 matches of the 2010 World Cup.