For the people of Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth, the excitement has turned to reality as the world has come to their doorstep.
Despite its famous namesake - South Africa's first democratically elected president and an international icon of peace - Nelson Mandela Bay, comprising Port Elizabeth and its surrounding areas, often misses out on international events, which tend to go the way of global hubs such as Cape Town and Johannesburg. But that is all changing as a result of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.
Tens of thousands of international guests have flocked to the Friendly City to watch one, or in the case of Korea Republic, two of the eight scheduled matches taking place at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium. Although historical links to European countries like Germany and England are strong, a host of other countries are getting a taste of Nelson Mandela Bay hospitality and a good dose of the Friendly City as it is known.
Father and son Cecil and Juan Rodriguez from Montevideo, Uruguay, landed in Johannesburg two days ago and headed to watch their team clash with Korea Republic in the city. They both said their experience so far had been “outstanding”.
“This is the best birthday present anyone could ask for,” said Juan, who is travelling with his father in celebration of his 16th birthday.
“When I think of South Africa, I think of Cape Town or Johannesburg – I didn’t even know about Port Elizabeth until recently, but this is a place I will keep in my memory forever.”
“We never heard of Nelson Mandela Bay before. But we had to come here because our team was playing. Now, after we have seen the beautiful beaches and the relaxed lifestyle, we will definitely come back,” said Cecil, 55, an entrepreneur. “I am going to bring my wife and daughter to see this beautiful city.”
Although Uruguay beat Korea Republic 2–1 the fans were all in agreement that the city in which the clash took place is going to leave a lasting impact.
Korean fan Jung Hin Kim, 33, a Seoul businessman said he enjoyed the pristine natural beauty the city had on offer. “Of course I went to Addo National Elephant Park and have done the tourist trips in the Eastern Cape, but just walking on the clean, beautiful beaches and looking at the changing colours of the sea here and all the shellfish and mussels on the rocks, those are the simple things I love about Port Elizabeth,” he said. “Also remember that South Koreans are always going to have a special place for Nelson Mandela Bay in their hearts and memories,” said Kim.
For Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Zanoxolo Wayile, the tournament has already done so much for the city.
“We are very happy with what has happened so far. I have not received any complaints from anyone in the city. Everybody is very happy. It has been a great success. This is the first time we as a city are hosting a tournament of this magnitude and we have managed to rise to the occasion in terms of transport, accommodation and organisation. “
Wayile also encouraged those who have visited the city to go home and tell their friends and family about their experiences.
“There have been many negative reports about South Africa regarding crime and infrastructure. And now they know that we have proven ourselves capable. Although we are a developing and emerging economy we have managed to stage a successful tournament. The quality of service and hospitality they have received is testament to that. We want to say to them they must go back and be the ambassadors of our city and our country. We would like to welcome them back to our country at anytime in any season and visit our beautiful beaches and surrounding areas,” he said.