Cape Town got into the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ spirit last night with the official switching on of the festive season lights in Adderley Street, in downtown Cape Town.
The event which officially kicks off the festive season in Cape Town is part of week-long preparations for the Final Draw on 4 December.
More than 120 000 Capetonians lined the streets as FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke was welcomed on stage by Cape Town mayor Dan Plato. South African defender Matthew Booth was also on stage to greet the crowd.
Valcke was overwhelmed by the large crowd that had gathered to watch the city centre light up with festive lights which this had year had a distinctive 2010 theme saying that on the 4th of December 315 million people around the world would have their attention fixed on Cape Town.
Rotating footballs reminded the city’s residents that next year would be a year like no other in South Africa’s history.
“It was amazing. For 30 seconds I felt like a rockstar,” Valcke said afterwards.
The night was then celebrated in true Cape Town style which would not be complete without the signature display of the city’s famous Cape Minstrels.
“The World Cup in South Africa will be amazing because South Africa is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and it is Cape Town that makes it beautiful because of its unique culture and colourful people,” says 63-year old Sulaiman Thornton. Thornton has been a member of the Fabulous Woodstock Starlights, one of the oldest and most popular minstrel troupes in Cape Town, since he was five years old.
Henri Brand, part of the 120,000 crowd, brings his daughter, seven year old Zarette to the switching on of the festive lights religiously. But for Brand, who himself was involved in the construction of the city’s new Green Point stadium, this year is particularly significant. “Next year we will host the World Cup, which is a major boost for our city and our country and I really just want my daughter to be a part of it.”
The Final Draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup takes place in the Mother City and will decide who plays who in the group stages next year.
Cape Town will be abuzz for the rest of the week as the city prepares to host the Final Draw on Friday 4 December. The city has already been covered in World Cup banners and the flags of the 32 qualified nations.
“This event was a great buildup to the Final Draw and also to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. We saw 120 000 people, much more than last year, showing they are ready to welcome the world. The spirit in the city is great and we are all set for a wonderful draw,” said Cape Town mayor Dan Plato.
Players from local Premier League sides were also on Adderley Street to meet their supporters.
Former South African footballer and current Ajax Cape Town goalkeeper, Hans Vonk, said the mood of the people of Cape Town was beginning to lift.
“Now you can see that there is a football vibe and things are starting to happen.” He also said football supporters who travel to South Africa next year would be pleasantly surprised.
“When people first come to South Africa they are scared because they believe that it is dangerous. But once they get here they are surprised and they say people here are so friendly. The people of Cape Town especially are very friendly and they treat visitors very well.”