Today’s start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee (OC) 100 days roadshow has highlighted South Africa’s history of unification through sport, with a visit to two historically significant stadiums in South Africa’s sporting and political history – Soccer City and Ellis Park.
The four day event kicked off with an early morning visit to Johannesburg’s two FIFA World Cup™ stadiums – Ellis Park and Soccer City.
FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke and OC Chief Executive Officer, Dr Danny Jordaan, joined 100 members of the media on the start of the tour which will see them visit the nine Host Cities and 10 stadiums over the next four days, culminating in the 100 day celebrations on 2 March in Durban.
First on the tour itinerary was an early morning visit to Ellis Park stadium in central Johannesburg.
The stadium, which also hosted the opening and closing matches of the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009, holds major sporting and political significance, most notably as the site where Nelson Mandela and the South African rugby team united a nation when South Africa won the 1995 Rugby World Cup Final.
As the man who scored all his team’s points that day, including the famous drop-goal that secured the victory, Joel Stransky was at the stadium to talk about the significance of the hallowed sporting ground and the FIFA World Cup.
“That was a special year for us as South Africans especially because we were such a new nation and a young democracy. To be involved in a World Cup of any nature is a tremendous experience and to have one on your home soil is that much more special.”
He heaped praise on Nelson Mandela for the role he played in bringing the country together and also for his role in securing right to host the FIFA World Cup for South Africa.
“His legacy in terms of supporting sport and uniting the nation will live on in this World Cup and in that, we as a nation, will get behind this event and will help to ensure that it is one of the best World Cups that has ever been organised.”
Later in the morning the tour moved to Soccer City stadium, which has undergone major refurbishment ahead of the tournament.
The 89,000 seater stadium – which will host both the opening and closing match of the World Cup – is the biggest in Africa. Being the venue where South Africa’s football team triumphed at the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations, as well as where former President Nelson Mandela’s first mass rally address was held after his release, Soccer City stadium is a venue close to the heart of many South Africans.
With a number of the players who secured the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations, such as Phil Masinga and Doctor Khumalo in attendance, the tour party took in the new-look stadium.
For Jordaan, Soccer City is a symbol of what South Africa is capable of. “This stadium will send the kind of pictures we want the world to see. To win the bid to host the tournament and then to start on a blank slate and see this lets us know that whatever anyone says, this World Cup is going to be a spectacular success” .
FIFA Secretary General, Jerome Valcke, was impressed by what he saw when entering the stadium.
“What country in the world has a stadium like this? There are very few countries in the world that have stadiums as beautiful as this one. It is one of the most beautiful stadiums I have seen in the last four years.”
Jordaan said Soccer City was a symbol of what South Africa was capable of.
The tour continued to Soweto before the media were taken to Tswhane/Pretoria to see Loftus Versveld Stadium. Media will then visit Rustenburg, Polokwane, Nelspruit, Mangaung/ Bloemfontein, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth/ Nelson Mandela Bay before arriving in Durban on 1 March.