June 11, 2010
Soccer City: where vuvuzelas blow the loudest
Soccer City, just hours ahead of the opening ceremony. Photo courtesy Sean Meisel
Today all roads lead to Soccer City Stadium in Soweto. History will be written in South Africa as the first African country to host the FIFA World Cup™.
Hundreds of football fans are already inside the venue, waiting with bated breath for the opening ceremony, which is due to start at 14h00 with a “ten-minute” surprise.
Tara Turkington, who is inside the Stadium says, “the vibe is electric but many seats are unfilled”.
Outside the stadium, vendors are doing a roaring trade in drinks, snacks, curios and football paraphernalia.
Situated in Soweto, this calabash-shaped sports ground has capacity for over 94 000 people, making it one of Africa’s largest. It will be packed to the rafters within in the next hour.
Hailed too as one of the most artistic, the newly reconstructed Soccer City will host the opening game, five group stage matches, one Round of 16 match, one quarter-final and ultimately the final on July 11, 2010.
Previously known as FNB Stadium, Soccer City was renovated in time for the World Cup.
Upgrades involved extending the upper tier to increase the capacity to 94 700, adding 99 more suites to bring the number to 184, constructing an encircling roof, adding new changing room facilities and installing new floodlighting.
The stadium now boasts a state of the art media centre where thousands of journalists from all over the world will be sending news clips to their respective stations by satellite.
According to the FIFA website the stadium is widely regarded as the heart of football in South Africa, having hosted many important matches, including the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations final, won by South Africa.
According to the designers, “The calabash was picked because it is a uniquely African object and is a recognisable symbol of the African continent.”
The calabash, or “melting pot of African cultures”, is a superb symbol for the township in which it sits: more than 1.3-million people and over 40% of Jo’burg’s population live in Soweto, what started as an informal settlement. The kaleidoscope of taxis, vuvuzelas, street vendors and shebeens on show offer any tourist – local or foreign - a unique cultural experience.
Tune in your radios and TVs to Soccer City celebrations at 14h00 today. Bafana’s opening match against Mexico begins at 16h00.
Fans gather in Soccer City ahead of the match. Photo courtesy Richard Frank
Fans inside Soccer City. Photo courtesy Sean Meisel
Fans chat inside Soccer City. Photo courtesy Richard King
Fans arrive at the Stadium
Football fans outside Soccer City
The “electric vibe” inside Soccer City
Videos courtesy Tara Turkington.