Durban's ‘engineering miracle' was given a spectacular welcome by the city over the weekend as explosions of light and sound surrounded Durban's Moses Mabhida Stadium, with a spectacular fireworks display marking the official opening of the stadium's iconic arch.
The event attracted many of the city residents hoping to catch a glimpse of their new city icon in all its splendour. But for Durban residents, the opening of the arch - which towers high above the pitch of the stadium that will host a 2010 FIFA World Cup semi-final - this was more than an engineering milestone.
"It is a celebration of teams working together to create, not only an architectural and engineering masterpiece, but to physically create an icon that symbolises and spans years of history, years of hope and years of work," said KwaZulu Natal Premier Sbu Ndebele, the province's political head.
For Ndebele, the night of celebrations, merriment and fantastic fireworks and artistry, was in fact a celebration for the whole of Africa. "As host of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, South Africa stands not as a country alone - but rather as a representative of Africa, and as part of an African family of nations. Our motto: ‘Africa's time has come, and South Africa is ready', still stands high on our agenda".
The arch has rapidly become a popular city attraction since the last section of the arch was put in place in January this year. Aside from becoming an iconic landmark for the city, the arch will also serve a more practical purpose. A high-tech cable car will be used to take stadium visitors to the highest point of the arch - providing them with a majestic view of Durban's coastline and city - and surely one of the most spectacular sights in FIFA World Cup history.
The construction of the stadium has captured the imagination of Durban residents, many of whom have made regular stops at the stadium's visitors' centre to photograph the progress of the construction site and particularly the (now complete) erection of the arch.
The Durban stadium, unique in many ways, is the only South African stadium to be designed through public competition. And the winning consortium, Ibhola Lethu, was inspired by the South African flag and the history it represents. The two legs of the arch on the southern side of the stadium turn into one single leg on the north side, symbolising the unity of a nation that was once divided.