Soccer City: jewel in 2010 crown

7 October 2009

Johannesburg’s calabash-shaped Soccer City Stadium will be the jewel among the 10 stadiums that will host the first football World Cup to be played on African soil.

Situated south-west of Johannesburg, a stone’s throw from the famous township of Soweto, Soccer City Stadium will host the opening ceremony and the opening and final matches of the 2010 Fifa World Cup™.

Bigger than the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, the Stade De France in Paris and the Yokohama International Stadium in Japan, Soccer City will be one of the largest stadiums to host a football World Cup.

Nearing 90% complete, with the pitch laid and work on the stadium precinct already well under way, the sheer scale of the stadium awed experts from Fifa and the 2010 Organising Committee South Africa (OC) during a recent stadium inspection tour.

The stadium’s unique calabash shape will be seen by millions of television viewers around the world, and remain as an enduring symbol of one of the proudest moments in South Africa’s post-democratic history.

Comprehensive design shift

To take its place among the top sports venues in the world – such as the Olympia Stadium in Berlin, the Stadio San Siro in Milan, New Wembley in London and Bernabeu in Madrid – Soccer City underwent a comprehensive design shift.

The original stadium, known by locals as the FNB Stadium, was almost completely demolished, with significant parts of the new structure being built from scratch, starting in early 2007.

The budget for the reconstruction of the stadium – the biggest roofed stadium ever built for a World Cup final – is estimated at R1.2-billion.

Stadium manager Brian Carter told BuaNews that the stadium’s seating capacity has been increased from 88 000 to 94 700 through extensions to the upper tiers around the stadium. In addition, 99 more suites have been added to bring the total to 184, with private boxes and VIP suites being built.

“Eight television presentation studios, a soccer museum and a 300-seater restaurant are being built, as well as a parking area that will accommodate 15 000 vehicles,” Carter said.

The International Broadcasting Centre that will house the world’s media for the duration of the tournament is under construction next to the stadium. Safa House, headquarters for Fifa and the 2010 Organising Committee, is also situated nearby.

‘Melting pot of African cultures’

However, the feature that will grab the most attention when the world of football descends on South Africa in June 2010 will be the stadium’s calabash-shaped design

Selected from a number of competing designs, the calabash was picked as a uniquely African object and a recognisable symbol of the African continent.

In Africa, the calabash is used for cooking food, traditionally over a fire. It is socially synonymous with family time, entertaining friends and sharing stories.

“The calabash, or ‘melting pot of African cultures’, sits on a raised podium on top of which is located a ‘pit of fire’,” Carter said, adding that spectators and television viewers would get the impression that they were sitting inside a giant cauldron.

For South Africans, the future Soccer City always evoke the original venue and its rich history.

First built in 1987, the stadium has become synonymous with South African football and has hosted some of the best-known games played in the country, including numerous cup finals and South Africa’s victory in the 1996 African Cup of Nations.

Rally to welcome Mandela from prison

Soccer City is also remembered for the mass rally held to welcome former President Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990, when more than 100 000 people crowded the stadium to hear Mandela call for a non-racial, unified South Africa.

Together with the newly revamped Orlando and Dobsonville Stadiums as official 2010 training grounds, Soccer City will entrench Johannesburg and Soweto as Africa’s premier footballing city.

Construction at the stadium is expected to be completed in time for hand-over to Fifa and the 2010 Organising Committee by October 2009.

The stadium will host the opening match of the 2010 Fifa World Cup on 11 June 2010, followed by group stage matches, a second-round match and a quarter-final.

On 11 July 2010, the two best teams in the world will step onto the turf of Soccer City to determine which country will lift the Jules Rimet Trophy.

Source: BuaNews and the 2010 Fifa World Cup South Africa Organising Committee