2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™

11 June - 11 July

2010 FIFA World Cup™

First World Cup stadium draws capacity crowds

© LOC

Built slap bang in the middle of the inner city with its white sail-like roof cladding, the 46,500-seater Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium makes for a very impressive sight - but there's more to its design than its aesthetics.

The city's renowned for the friendly nature of the locals - but also for its constant high winds - an element which for a stadium about to host the FIFA World Cup doesn't make for the best football conditions.

"The stadium is compact in nature - the wind, which is all too common in this city, will hit the roof and be deflected off, ensuring that fans and players have the best possible experience in the stadium," explains 2010 FIFA World Cup host city coordinator Errol Heynes.

When the first newly built World Cup stadium opened in June 2009 after just 26 months of construction, the weather was not optimal, but inside the stadium it was an oasis of calm.

It is the first time that the city has had a facility capable of hosting major events and already football and rugby matches played in the stadium have attracted near capacity crowds.

"The stadium is already hugely popular - people of Port Elizabeth are huge sports fans. Last Saturday alone we hosted three rugby matches here," explains host city coordinator Errol Heynes.

"All that remains to be done now is for us to finalise upgrades to our transport network to get fans to and from the games, to firm up accommodation requirements and to complete work on the precinct."

As part of the precinct development plans, the crane path, used by the cranes to hoist the 36 roof girders that make up the stadium's magnificent roof structure, will become a cycle and running track around the stadium and the plan is to extend this track around North End lake as well.

There is also talk of putting fountains in the lake to further beautify the area.

For 61-year old Major Pikoli, born and bred in the area, who for many years worked in a factory a stone's throw from the stadium, it is in the perfect place to host football's greatest show piece.

"It is right in the middle of the city - easily accessible for all people of Nelson Mandela Bay. As a rugby and football player of many years, it is amazing to think that my city now has such an amazing stadium, right in the North End," says Pikoli, who ten years ago set up his own football club in the city, which today fields three teams, largely made up of street children.

No doubt Port Elizabeth will be a popular host city in 2010. With a mild climate and excellent beaches there is also no shortage of attractions within a short drive of the city.

The university town of Grahamstown, just over an hour's drive from Nelson Mandela Bay will host the National Arts Festival, said to be the second largest in the world after Edinburgh Festival in Scotland, concurrently with the World Cup.

Shuttle buses will be on hand to transport visitors between the two cities. Plans are also on the table to host the annual Knysna Oyster Festival and the Jeffrey's Bay Shell Festival, both within driving distance of the city, at the same time. There are also a number of malaria-free game reserves just a short drive from the city, a sure-bet attraction for visitors making their first trip to the continent.

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