A LOOK AHEAD TO SOUTH AFRICA

Following a satisfying World Cup 2010 draw, England fans can be forgiven for once again reigniting their often ridiculed optimism. An opener with USA, followed by showdowns with Algeria and Slovenia would provoke hope of glory in South Africa for even the most despondent of Englishmen.

However such excitement and anticipation has not always been felt since FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced South Africa as the 2010 World Cup host country in May 2004.

Constant rumours of huge problems throughout the project increased fears that South Africa would fail to provide adequate facilities and infrastructure to host the prestigious tournament.

Reports of workers’ strikes and funding troubles hit the headlines, sparking further rumours of a possible alternative host nation. This was flatly rejected by FIFA and rightly so as the ten venues South Africa will provide are extremely impressive.

The 94,700-seater, Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, will host the first and final matches of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The distinctive brown dome was built in 1987 and is inspired by the iconic African pot known as the ‘calabash’. The stadium hosted the first mass rally of Nelson Mandela after his release from prison in 1990.

Ellis Park, also in Johannesburg, has a capacity of 62,000 and was first built in 1928 as a rugby union stadium. It was rebuilt in 1982 and has since become the home of Orlando Pirates Football Club. Following recent upgrades it will provide state-of-the-art media facilities, team whirlpools, top-class VIP areas for dignitaries and a top-notch audio-visual setup.

Rustenburg’s 42,000-seater, Royal Bafokeng Stadium will host England’s opening match against USA on June 12. The newly-built, 46,000-seater Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, enjoys a close proximity to various game parks, allowing fans the opportunity to see the wildlife during rest days.

The most northern venue, newly-built 45,000-seater, Peter Mokaba Stadium is situated approximately 5km from Polokwane city centre, will be completed in 2010. Loftus Versfeld Stadium, in Pretoria, is one of the oldest stadiums in South Africa, first built in 1903 and following modern upgrades will hold 50,000. Bloemfontein’s Free State Stadium is home to some of the country's most fanatical groups of supporters and with a capacity of 48,000 is likely to be the centre of attention. The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, in Port Elizabeth will host the 3rd and 4th playoff final. The newly-built stadium was completed a year early and has an eye-catching, unique roof-structure with a spectacular view, overlooking the North End Lake.

Cape Town’s newly built, Green Point Stadium has an exterior that is covered with noise-reducing cladding and will have a capacity of 70,000 following completion in December 2009. Fans will be a stone's throw from the ocean and the mountains of Cape Town will also provide the backdrop for matches. Durban’s newly-built, 70,000-seater, Moses Mabhida Stadium, takes its design inspiration from the South African flag and will have a similar grand arch to Wembley. The two legs of the arch on one side of the stadium come together to form a single footing on the northern side, which symbolises the new unity of a once-divided country.

The first World Cup to be staged in Africa could well be the most exciting as the huge impressive stadiums will offer electrifying atmospheres and an outstanding platform to stage the greatest show on earth.

Posted on 01/01/2010