Yesterday’s news that the 2013 CAF Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) has been switched from Libya to South Africa came as no great surprise, and it confirmed the new hosts’ state of permanent readiness to host major tournaments. The experience and infrastructure developed during the staging of last year’s FIFA World Cup™ has left South Africa perfectly positioned to host other major events, with its glittering array of first-rate stadiums a key selling point.
However, when the country first announced, four years before it hosted the first FIFA World Cup on African soil, that it would be constructing a clutch of towering football arenas for the global showpiece, the news was met with widespread scepticism. The question often advanced back then was whether the Rainbow Nation would be able to sustain such infrastructure once the FIFA World Cup had been done and gone.
Fortunately, even before yesterday’s announcement that it would be taking on the responsibility of hosting the 2013 CAN and the following year’s CAF African Nations Championsip, South Africa had been answering its critics in the best possible way, with all the new FIFA World Cup venues continuing not only as iconic landmarks, but as hubs for sporting and entertainment events. Statistics reveal that, far from being the ‘white elephants’ critics predicted, the majority of these stadiums now act as self-sustainable businesses. Further plans are also afoot to ensure these venues not only form a tangible legacy from the FIFA World Cup, but also play their part in South Africa's long-term ambition to host future international events.
Danny Jordaan, CEO of the South Africa 2010 Organising Committee, explained the importance of this development. "This is the first time in our history that there are purpose-built stadiums across the country and world class homes for football,” he said. “Football is by far the most popular sport in South Africa, so certainly there is a demand for stadiums. The challenge for cities is to find creative ways to use the stadiums in conjunction with sports clubs, hosting events and allowing commercial activities. Many of these stadiums are already making use of these options and quite successfully. With the recent announcement of South Africa as the host for the 2013 African Cup of Nations, these stadiums will be central to hosting a great tournament."
The majestic Soccer City (now known as FNB Stadium) – an arena often referred to as the cathedral of football in South Africa and the place where Spain won a dramatic FIFA World Cup Final – has been the busiest of all. Within weeks of the FIFA World Cup final, the FNB Stadium hosted a historic rugby match between South Africa and New Zealand, traditional rivals who attracted a record crowd for a rugby fixture. Besides hosting a number of football cup finals, the FNB Stadium has also played host to major music concerts, including a sold-out gig from U2. In a month's time, another capacity crowd will turn out to welcome another famous band, Coldplay. FNB Stadium is also now used as a home venue by South Africa's self-styled glamour team and one of the most popular clubs in the country, Kaizer Chiefs.
The Durban Stadium (now Moses Mabhida Stadium) has also seen a lot of action, having been converted into a multi-purpose sporting facility. In January, it hosted the first ever cricket match between South Africa and India - a sold-out event to honour one of South Africa's biggest sporting names, Makhaya Ntini, who also participated in the Final Draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
The Moses Mabhida Stadium is also now called home by South African Premier Soccer League (PSL) side Amazulu. This stadium has become one of the major tourist attraction in Durban as it continues to lure visitors thanks to its majestic arch and cable car.
One of the most breathtaking venues, the Cape Town Stadium, has positioned itself as a multi-purpose venue. The stadium recently signed a three-year long lease with Premier Soccer League outfit, Ajax Cape Town which will see the Cape side playing its home games at this magnificent venue.
It has hosted a number of Cup matches including the recent Kaizer Chiefs vs Ajax Cape Town MTN8 semifinal which attracted an almost capacity crowd. Recently, the Cape Town stadium hosted popular music group, Coldplay in yet another concert that drew a big crowd.
In an effort to woo many fans, the PSL introduced double-header nights at the stadium that attracted capacity crowds between local sides and visiting teams. In May this year, Cape Town Stadium hosted the league finale where Ajax lost the championship on the last game of the season. That game too was sold out.
• This arena has hosted a number of PSL matches and is currently being used as an alternative venue by several top flight sides, including Wits
• Rugby has also found a new home in Mbombela Stadium, where some of this season’s South African top flight rugby action has taken place
• In March this year, the Mbombela Stadium hosted the Nedbank Cup final between Orlando Pirates and Black Leopards, another sold-out affair
• Bafana Bafana, South Africa’s senior national side, recently played Niger in a 2012 CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at the venue
Peter Mokaba Stadium
• This has been one of the busiest stadiums by far. This year alone, it has hosted a number of high-profile matches, mainly involving South Africa’s top side, Kaizer Chiefs
• A total of 18 PSL matches were played
• This season, newly-promoted Black Leopards have been using the stadium as their home ground
• One of South Africa’s top rugby side, Blue Bulls, played one of its fixtures at the Peter Mokaba
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
• This arena recently hosted the sold-out rugby match between South Africa and New Zealand
• The stadium is currently home to Eastern Cape rugby outfit Eastern Province Kings
• Some PSL sides have listed the stadium as an alternative venue