12 June 2010
As Johannesburg’s flagship Soccer City stadium seethed in a mass of yellow and brightly coloured flags on Friday afternoon, the hum of tens of thousands of vuvuzelas was suddenly overcome as Gripen Fighter jets burst overhead. Africa’s first Fifa World Cup was opening in spectacular fashion.
As the smoke cleared, five jets, their tails emblazed with the South African flag, sent the crowd’s excitement levels sky rocketing. The moment a nation had been counting down towards for more than six years had arrived.
“Fellow Africans, today we rewrite history. Because we have brought the World Cup to our soil,” cried out Zolani Mkhiva, the “Poet of Africa”. Mkhiva is the youngest practitioner of kubonga (praise singing), one of Africas oldest oral traditions.
Nine drummers from nine different directions converged in a ring around the praise singer. The pitch became awash with colour as 270 women in brightly coloured blankets formed lines behind the drummers. The lines pointed in the direction of the nine other stadiums in nine host cities where the story of the 2010 Fifa World Cup will emerge over the coming month.
In total more than 1 500 South African artists, dancers, musicians and performers between the ages of six and 60 welcomed the world to Africa – an Africa of hope, colour, energy and boundless potential.
They sang and danced to songs ranging from uQongothwane, made famous by the late Miriam Makeba, to Didi sung by North Africa’s Khaled, whose song paid tribute to all six African teams, the most ever to be represented at a Fifa World Cup.
Johannesburg had awoken to a grey and cold day on Friday, but as a massive patchwork quilt of the African continent was revealed to the world, there was no longer a cloud in the sky. The African sun poured into the “calabash” stadium, warmly welcoming a watching world back to the cradle of civilisation.
Multiple Grammy award winner R Kelly and the Soweto Spiritual Singers left the audience elated in the ceremony’s moving showpiece song “Sign of a Victory”, which recognised all 208 original member associations that competed for a place in the 2010 Fifa World Cup and the 32 nations that were ultimately successful.
The ceremony ended, the protective sheet was removed, and the sounds of the vuvuzela rose again as South Africa rejoiced.
With the lines of the pitch revealed – all set for the opening clash between Mexico and South Africa – South Africans and hundreds of millions of viewers in 215 countries were left ready to experience the football that everyone has been waiting for.