What do giraffes, towering steel arches and giant African calabashes have in common with the 2010 FIFA World Cup™?
They are all intriguing design elements of South Africa's FIFA World Cup stadia, rapidly taking shape in a mesh of tonnes of steel, bricks and mortar. Conceptualised by imaginative architects and now being very quickly brought to vivid life by tens of thousands of committed construction workers, these are some of the elements that will make good on South Africa's promise of a never-before-seen African FIFA World Cup.
A ten-day inspection tour of all ten 2010 FIFA World Cup stadia by FIFA and Organising Committee experts provided even further evidence, if any was still needed, that South Africa is well on course to delivering a memorable tournament, if the creative, eye-catching 2010 stadia are anything to go by.
Over 20,000 workers are currently on site at the country's stadia, not only South African men and hundreds of women, but a real 'League of Nations' drawn from around the world.
The progress of construction in particular at the six new stadia under construction are strikingly impressive, no more so than at Nelson Mandela Bay, where the majority of the stadium's construction work is complete and half of the seats at the 40,000-seater stadium are already installed.
And it is due to a small group of 12 Chinese workers that seat installation is going as quickly as it is - with them installing as many as a thousand seats per day. A group of six Bangladeshi riggers and crane operators are also earning rave reviews from their local Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium construction colleagues.
"I am learning so much from the guys from Bangladesh and China. The Bangladeshis are very good riggers and the Chinese are such hard-working guys. I am very proud to be part of the team working on this stadium. It's a real honour," said 27-year-old local rigger Thembinkosi Mahola.
Sticking with the United Nations feel at the stadium, there are plenty of German and Swiss accents on site, as well as the distinctive Scottish brogue of stadium foreman Norman McMurray. "I helped build Celtic's stadium more than 30 years ago and it's great to be working on a FIFA World Cup stadium in South Africa. Hosting the World Cup will be a fantastic achievement for this country and will bring so many cultures here," said McMurray, who emigrated to South Africa from Glasgow 17 years ago.
And the potpourri of local and international workers is certainly doing wonders, with the inspection group seeing detailed finishings on site and surprised by one fully kitted dressing room, complete with snazzy player lockers and jacuzzi's, complete with comfy headrests, already completed.
A number of milestones were encountered on the tour. At the showpiece, Soccer City, the first pieces of cladding for the distinctive African calabash, a bowl normally used for traditionally brewed beer and as a cooking utensil, were already being placed on the outside of the stadium. The calabash shape, which will eventually envelop the stadium, is steadily beginning to make its way around the entire perimeter of the stadium that will host the 2010 Opening Match and Final.
Horst R. Schmidt, the Vice President of Germany's FIFA 2006 World Cup Organising Committee, joined the inspection tour to Soccer City and was clearly impressed.
"My general impression is that this is one of the most exciting sites I've ever seen in my sporting life," said the experienced sporting administrator, who is now a key 2010 FIFA World Cup consultant.
The Durban stadium was, however, the trip's most eye-catching, with the approach to the stadium dominated by a breathtaking arch that is already beginning to dominate the city's skyline.
When complete the arch will be 105 metres above the middle of the pitch, with spectators able to get to the top of the arch by cable-car from one side or by ascending hundreds of steps from the other for a stunning view of the 2010 FIFA World Cup semi-final venue below and of the nearby Indian Ocean just a few kilometres behind the stadium.
Situated in a region known for its natural beauty and lush greenery, as well as for the famous Kruger National Park and ‘big five' wild animals, Nelspruit's Mbombela Stadium was determined that its stadium would reflect its surroundings.
To this end, the stadium has incorporated very prominently into its design 16 giraffe-shaped columns for what will be one of the most unique FIFA World Cup stadiums ever built.
And Cape Town? Always any South African event's most picturesque, the Greenpoint Stadium on the slopes of Signal Hill with the imposing Table Mountain looking on, it's bound to be one of the most majestic stadiums come 2010.
South Africa has promised a FIFA World Cup like no other. And with calabashes, giant giraffes and cablecars et al, they will certainly have stadiums like no other.