The scene for the Preliminary Draw to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ started in true African fashion today with a chorus from the Spirit of Lion King, adapted from the musical. The bright blue dancers and theatrical echoes of the singers inspired show MC, Robet Marawa, to declare: "After a long and exciting journey, surrounded by the wild animals of the Lion King and the beat of the Zulu drums, at last we are in Africa. And we are delighted to have you here with us."
President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, and FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter welcomed everyone to the start of the race to the 2010 finals, which will be staged in Africa for the first time. The spectacular stage had three rotating smaller stages for the performers, an orchestra and the draw itself.
The base of the stage was in the shape of the African continent, and in the centre, at the heart of Africa, was the draw stage. Draw Master Jerome Valcke was decisive in his role and tracked the different groups from a magnetic draw panel. The draw assistants were football legends like Abedi Pele, Lucas Radebe, Ali Daei, Kasey Keller and local South African heroes, Jomo Sono and Kaizer Motaung. The unmistakable George Weah also strutted on to stage with his usual confidence and amused the audience with his dry humour.
Following the Draw of the North, Central America and Caribbean Zone, Judith Sephuma's jazzy sounds gave a welcomed break. Her voice permeated the hall as she sang 'A cry, a smile, a dance'.
Before the African Zone was drawn, South African group Freshlyground sang their MTV award-winning song 'Do-be-do'. The pop group urged the crowd, singing "if you feel what I say, clap and stamp your feet". The draw reached an fitting climax when the Afro Tenors performed their version of 'Nessun Dorma'.
The show had certainly lived up to its promise - Africa is the theatre and South Africa is the stage. As Marawa pointed out: "The preliminary competition is all about getting from 208 countries down to 32".
The journey to South Africa has begun.