It was not just the 84,490 fans seated in Soccer City stadium that celebrated the start of Africa’s historic World Cup.
Aside from the estimated 500 million television viewers around the world, many flocked to FIFA Fan Fests™ and other public viewing areas both in South Africa and abroad.
Over 100,000 people attended the six international FIFA Fan Fests, more than half of those in Mexico City. In South Africa, nine of the ten Fan Fests were filled to capacity attracting 300,000 people in total.
At Elkah Stadium, the official FIFA Fan Fest in Soweto, 40,000 fans gathered to celebrate the first game of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. As the whistle blew to begin play on the pitch a cacophany of sound emanated from the fans. The World Cup had officially started.
In Thokoza Park, a public viewing area near Elkah Stadium, thousands of residents stood dancing, blowing their vuvuzelas and waving South African flags. “I am so happy this day has arrived,” said Matthew Jabula. “We are the lucky generation, it feels so great to be out with everyone celebrating South Africa's World Cup, fly the flag high!”
John Kretlow is from the USA, but for the opening game he was supporting Mexico in Thokoza Park. “We were the only Mexico fans in the crowd I think,” said Kretlow. “But everyone was super nice and wanted to know where we were from and get to know us.”
Kretlow travelled to the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany but has never experienced anything like the South African football spirit. “I've never seen anything like it. The people here really know how to live it, it's totally different, I've never seen so much excitement in my life.”
The tournament may have kicked off in Johannesburg but Cape Town certainly showed how the Mother City can throw a party – in both the Fan Fests and the Green Point stadium which hosted France vs Uruguay.
Cape Town crowds exploded at the Grand Parade, which is host to the FIFA Fan Fest, as 18,000 people watched Bafana Bafana and Mexico open the first match. And after the final whistle the crowds made their way toward Green Point stadium for Cape Town’s opening match.
A French supporter, who introduced himself as Jacques, said “I’ve been here for three days and I’m very impressed` with what I’ve seen. The stadium looks beautiful and I hope my team wins tonight and tomorrow at the rugby,” he said referring to the rugby match between France and South Africa on 12 June.