7 June 2010
2010 Fifa World Cup branding has been dropped from the trusses of the massive suspension pylons of Johannesburg’s Nelson Mandela Bridge, in tribute to the famous South African leader who was pivotal in bringing the tournament to Africa.
“We all know that Nelson Mandela and South Africa’s staging of the 2010 Fifa World Cup cannot be separated,” Johannesburg Mayor Amos Masondo said during the unveiling ceremony on Saturday.
“One of the reasons why we won the bid is because Mandela, in person, engaged in vigorous campaigning for the country. In a few days’ time, when the eyes of billions of people across the world will be fixed on Soccer City, it will be a tribute to the stature of the founding father of our democracy.”
The 284 metre-long structure that links the central business district to the northern regions of the city is one of Johannesburg’s most iconic features. The bridge carries 4 000 cubic feet of concrete and 1 000 tons of metal, making it the biggest cable-stayed bridge in southern Africa.
“Paris has the Eiffel Tower, New York has the Statue of Liberty, Sydney has its Opera House … and Johannesburg has the Nelson Mandela Bridge,” Masondo said. “This bridge symbolizes the bringing together of our people. Johannesburg was segregated in the past; this bridge crosses that divide and brings the city together.
“The Nelson Mandela Bridge has become an iconic symbol of the ‘new Johannesburg’,” Masondo said. “As we drape this bridge, we reaffirm Madiba as the architect of our transformation and nation building.”
As the ribbon was cut the massive drapes were released, revealing the now famous image of Mandela holding the Fifa World Cup Trophy on 15 May 2004, the day it was announced that South Africa would host Africa’s first Fifa World Cup.
As the gathered crowd celebrated on the bridge, with Diski Dancers leading the festivities, the massive picture of a smiling Mandela sat above the Johannesburg skyline.