For the last three years, members of the media have been coming to SAFA House, the head office of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee, to be briefed on the host country’s preparations. In that time they have had the opportunity to see for themselves the tournament’s flagship stadium, Soccer City, rise from the ground to the point where the final touches are being made to the stadium precinct.
But this World Cup will be hosted in ten stadiums, in nine cities across eight provinces. For this reason the OC marked the 100 day celebrations by travelling thousands of kilometres around the country taking 120 members of the media to nine cities in four days.
Tshwane/Pretoria – Super Stadium
After a morning spent in Johannesburg’s Ellis Park and Soccer City stadiums (see earlier article) the group headed north to Tshwane/Pretoria, where the mayor of the capital, Gwen Ramokgopa, welcomed the group to the “City of Champions” – a worthy name given that this city is home to both the reigning Premier Soccer League (PSL) champions SuperSport United and rugby’s Super 14 champions, the Blue Bulls.
The tour took the opportunity to visit Super Stadium in Atteridgeville, which will be one of the training grounds for the World Cup.
The city will play host to many of the top teams during the tournament, with Italy, Germany, USA and Ghana all choosing to be based in Tshwane. All in all, 19 of the 32 teams will be based in Gauteng.
Rustenburg - Royal Bafokeng Stadium
On to the platinum city of Rustenburg, home of the Royal Bafokeng nation, whose 45000-seater stadium helped bring the world’s biggest sporting event to the North West province.
”When we built this stadium in 1997 we had a dream that one day we would bring a major international event to this stadium – and that has definitely happened,” said Kasana Joseph Rapestsana, representing the Royal Bafokeng nation. The Bafokeng nation not only built the stadium but also the newly complete Bafokeng Sports Campus where the England team will be based during the tournament.
OC CEO, Dr Danny Jordaan complemented the local team for the excellent quality of their pitch and said that he was certain that England and USA, the two top buying nations for the tournament who will meet each other here at a sold out venue on 12 June, should have all the facilities at their disposal in Rustenburg to perform at their best.
Polokwane – Peter Mokaba Stadium
At the start of the World Cup many around the world will have heard of Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg, but thanks to the World Cup millions will also have heard of Polokwane, Nelspruit and Mangaung.
“We will never get another opportunity like this, after this tournament we will never be the same as we were before,” said Polokwane Mayor Thabo Makunyane whose small city now boasts a 44000-seater stadium.
OC CEO Danny Jordaan explained that the nine host cities, all unique and diverse, were not chosen at random. “In the bid book we proposed 13 cities. FIFA then came back and said – not more than ten. We asked the Development Bank of South Africa to do a technical audit of the cities looking at their ability to invest in this tournament and to rank the top nine. That gave us our decision.”
Nelspruit – Mbombela Stadium
Mbombela’s striking stadium will leave the world in no doubt that this is an African tournament. Set in the bush, the stadium is supported by 18 giraffe-shaped columns and the seats resemble a zebra hide – adding to the ‘wild charm’ of the stadium.
The city, which is within an easy drive of both Swaziland and Mozambique, has worked closely with these two countries to market the region as a whole during the tournament. The city is also likely to attract fans from these countries during the tournament, with close to 2000 applications made by fans in Mozambique in the fourth phase, which started on 9 February, alone.
This stadium was without a pitch during the media tour but Richard Hayden of the Sports Turf Research Institute in the UK, which has been contracted to advise the OC on all its pitches, is confident that a world-class pitch will be growing in Mbombela in seven to eight weeks time.
Mangaung/Bloemfontein – Free State stadium
South Africa’s natural beauty will no doubt win many an admirer in South Africa but ultimately it is the fans that will make this World Cup a memorable one. And there are few places one will find more passionate fans than in Mangaung/ Bloemfontein. Welcomed by the song and dance of around 300 Bloemfontein Celtic fans, as well as fans from other local PSL sides, visitors to Free State stadium got a taste of what the World Cup experience may be in this city, especially on 22 June when South Africa takes on France in the very stadium.
Cape Town – Green Point Stadium
FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke beamed when he walked onto Green Point stadium’s perfect pitch.
“This is just an amazing stadium, it is in the perfect place and I don’t think there is one issue with it,” said Valcke.
Ticket sales in Cape Town have been incredibly successful with tickets for the seven matches that will be hosted here currently unavailable. Residents of the city are no doubt eager to experience this new facility with both test events held to date, a local derby and a rugby match, being sell out affairs.
Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth – Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
“I grew up not far from here but twenty years ago I wasn’t even allowed to come to this site as it was in a white area. Today I stand here in a stadium about to welcome some of the world’s biggest teams – Germany, England, Portugal, Cote d’Ivoire, in a stadium named after one of the biggest icons in world history,” said Jordaan as he stood smiling on the pitch of Nelson Mandela Bay stadium.
The stadium was the first newly built World Cup stadium to be complete, opening in June 2009, just 26 months after construction began. It has already hosted a number of successful events including a game between local club Orlando Pirates and team from neighbouring Botswana the day before the roadshow team arrived.
Durban - Durban Stadium
The tour culminated at the magnificent Durban stadium, with its iconic arch boasting a cable car and steps to the top to take in the views of the city’s famous Golden Mile.
"The arch is the celebration of our freedom and rainbow nation. We have a diverse culture, but this stadium brings people from all corners together. We are waiting for the whole Africa to come and join this party,” said KwaZulu Natal Premier, Zweli Mkhize, at a press conference to mark 100 days to go.
And a party it will certainly be in this tropical seaside city with its warm climate and soon to be completed beachside fan mile.