South Africa: Soccer City ready for 2010

When the last whistle has been blown and all the soccer fans have gone home, what will happen to the R3,4 billion Soccer City Stadium?

Soccer City is the venue for the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup opening match between South Africa and Mexico on June 11.

Final touch-ups are being done on the the 94000-seater stadium, which was built in 2007.

It used to accommodate 70000 soccer fans before.

The World Cup will not be the first major event at the venue. In 1990, when former president Nelson Mandela was released from prison, the first ANC rally was held at the venue.

Three years later, Chris Hani’s funeral was also held there.

Hani was the general secretary of the SACP and chief-of-staff of Umkhonto we Sizwe.

He was murdered by Polish immigrant Janusz Waluz in 1993 at his home in Dawn Park, Boksburg, in Ekurhuleni.

South Africa, which hosted the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996, defeated Tunisia 2-0 in the finals at the stadium, which was then known as FNB Stadium.

To test the stadium’s readiness, the Nedbank Cup final will be held there on May 22 less than a month before the World Cup kicks off.

Local Organising Committee spokesperson Rich Mkhonto said the first test match at Soccer City was a staff tournament.

At least 15000 employees and their families converged at the venue on March 26.

The stadium is owned by the City of Johannesburg and is up to them to ensure that it is well maintained.

The city has hired Stadium Management South Africa to take care of the venue.

Stadium Management South Africa currently manages Orlando and Dobsonville stadiums in Soweto, and the Rand Stadium in Rosettenville, the city’s oldest stadium built more than 50 years ago.

Clifford Duffey, retail and beverage manager at Soccer City, said: “We have started to look at ways to make revenue for the upkeep of the stadium. To maintain it, we would have to host between 25 and 50 big concerts in a year. The stadium is not only for soccer, it is big enough for rugby as well.”

Since January, and until Fifa takes over the running of the stadium on May 20, Stadium Management SA has been running 90-minute guided tours.

Last month, 7000 people visited the stadium and more are expected after the World Cup.

Lehlohonolo Mokone, who works at the food and beverage department and doubles up as a tour guide, said: “People actually visit the stadium a lot, and the most important and popular question is: ‘Are we going to be ready when the World Cup starts in June?’

“But since January, a lot of progress has been made. We will definitely be ready.”

The tours cost R70 and there are special rates for families and the elderly.

During the tour, you learn about the design and other interesting facts about the venue.

Mokone said: “The stadium was designed like a calabash by architect Bob van Bebber. We call it the African Melting Pot. The different coloured tiles represent the different colours of the pot when it is on the fire. The white part at the top of the stadium represents the foam on umqombothi that is being brewed. At night, the turnstiles are red, and that represents the fire burning under the pot. The exterior of the stadium is made of fibre concrete panels in eight different earthy colours, fitted together in a patchwork, and curving around into the cantilevered.


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