Fever pitch at Green Point

An artist’s impression of the inside of
Cape Town’s Green Point Stadium.
(Image: City of Cape Town)

An artist’s impression of Green Point
Stadium, with the ocean in the foreground
and Cape Town’s landmark Table
Mountain in the background.
(Image: City of Cape Town)

Green Point Stadium under construction in
February 2008.
(Image: Rodger Bosch,
For more free photos, visit the image

Lusanda Ngcaweni

No matter what side of the fence you stood on a year ago, you probably won’t be able to hide your enthusiasm when you set eyes on the striking new football stadium in Green Point, Cape Town, which is to host eight Fifa World Cup matches in 2010, including a semifinal.

Ever since it was proposed, the idea of building a new stadium in Green Point for 2010 has been plagued by political disputes. But despite the setbacks, and with the 2010 Fifa World Cup kick-off just under two years away, plans are finally coming together.

Currently, the main challenge facing the Green Point Stadium – a joint venture between firms Murray & Roberts and Wilson Bayly Holmes-Ovcon (WBHO) – is completing construction on time, according to project director Andrew Fanton. The structure is being built on a 10.6-hectare site and has a seating capacity of 68 000.

The dedicated team of about 2 000 labourers, 400 supervisory staff and 35 subcontractors is working hard to ensure the 14 December 2009 target is met.

“We are approaching completion of the level-five elevated slabs and are on target to complete the entire superstructure to receive the roof compression ring in September 2008,” Fanton says.

The grass for the pitch is being specially cultivated and is scheduled to take about four months to plant, with the process starting in August 2009. The glass roof will also be custom-made. “The glass is not only an aesthetic element, but required to weigh the roof down for Western Cape environmental conditions. The glass forms part of the roof structure which is being delivered by a joint venture between US and German companies, Birdair-Pfeifer.”

Fanton says the benefits of working on such a large assignment far outweigh the challenges. “Projects of this size and complexity allow us as an industry to not only re-tool our businesses from a plant and equipment perspective, but also to train and develop our trade labour and supervision to deliver a core competence in this type of construction.

“We as team Green Point are very proud to be tasked with this project for the City of Cape Town and South Africa as the 2010 host nation. Personally, I am looking forward to December 14 2009.”

Empowering the workforce

Murray & Roberts and WBHO have put their money where their mouths are, investing R6-million in the Green Point Stadium Training Centre, an impressive facility focusing on the construction and engineering industry.

“The Green Point Stadium is the biggest construction in Cape Town,” says Antoinette du Toit, training manager at the centre. “When we started looking for workers, there weren’t enough. The construction industry had expressed the need to formalise skills, but nobody was doing anything about it. Because of a skills shortage in South Africa, we were bringing in people from Indonesia.” The boom in the building industry in Cape Town didn’t help matters, as shutter hands had to be brought in from Johannesburg, and steel fixers from Durban in KwaZulu-Natal and Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape.

The centre not only trains new people from scratch, but certifies existing skills as well. The certification is for those who, for example, have been doing scaffolding work for years but without a qualification. In the past when they began new projects they always had to start as unskilled workers as they lacked proof of their abilities.

“The assessment, which recognises their skills level, is 100% neutral,” says Du Toit. “We have assessed about 400 people so far and they have walked away with a national certification.”

Launched in August last year, the centre has also trained about 200 people who came in as general workers, but showed potential to be shutter hands and steel fixers. “The training centre has done wonders for productivity and general motivation of staff, none of whom will walk away from this project empty-handed.”

Fanton agrees that the training process is making a difference on site. “It definitely develops a good team spirit. It’s about creating an understanding of what we want to achieve with respect to project delivery. This [training and certification] creates the will – then it’s about skilling and drilling to deliver consistent performance,” he says.

As an incentive, the centre ensures workers get paid during training. “This has made a big impact on safety because the more trained people you have working on a site, the fewer the accidents,” Du Toit says.

Training is not limited to on-site workers. There is a huge interest from tertiary institutions that bring in design, architecture, engineering and construction students. About 24 interns are also being trained at the centre and have the opportunity to gain some practical experience. They get to interact with the experts in the field, such as chief engineers, quantity surveyors and project managers.

With the shortage of construction training centres in Cape Town, the Green Point facility is also open to other construction companies that need to provide workers with training. This helps cover the centre’s running costs.

Because a national system was preferred, Du Toit says they decided to subcontract the training. “The company we use provides the trainers and the material. Qualified workers get a proper national certificate, which is Seta-accredited.” The Services Sector Education and Training Authorities (Seta) manage the skills development process in the South African workplace.

Pulling in the public

Part of the controversy surrounding the building of the Green Point Stadium was rooted in the area’s history. The Green Point Common, the 130ha piece of land on which the new Fifa Stadium is situated, was granted to the Cape Town City Council in 1923 by the Union Government as commonage for general public recreation. The extent of the common has been substantially reduced over the years for urban development, but remains a substantial and significant public open space – especially for those living in the area.

To promote the idea of constructing a new costly stadium on the valued commonage, Murray & Roberts, WBHO and the City of Cape Town decided to open a visitors’ centre so reluctant locals and visitors to the city could see the site, track the stadium’s progress and have all their questions answered. Although the old Green Point Stadium had already been demolished for the new one close by, its presidential suite was still standing. This was the ideal place to convert into a visitors’ centre, says Silvana Dantu, project director of the Green Point Stadium Visitors’ Centre.

The visitors’ centre helps educate the public on, among other things, the size of the new stadium and its environmental implications. It also enables school children to learn more about the project and gives access to people who wouldn’t necessarily get to see the stadium during the 2010 World Cup, adds Dantu.

The facility boasts an extensive photo library, memorabilia from South Africa’s football history and puts on a one-man show for audiences. Visitors are also taken on a guided bus tour of the actual football pitch and can watch a short documentary, The Game Plan, which introduces the project’s major players and gives visitors an idea of what it takes to create a stadium that size. Visitors are then taken on a virtual tour of the completed Green Point Stadium as it will appear in 2010.

Dantu believes the visitors’ centre should be the hub of the 2010 Fifa Local Organising Committee and the City of Cape Town. “We are documenting who is visiting the centre as part of the history of building the stadium. By the time it is complete, the Green Point Stadium will have a history of its own. For me it is such a privilege to get the opportunity to do something like this, to host one of the biggest events in the universe. Imagine … Ronaldinho will be here! The benefit of the experience will be to see the euphoria!”

Shifting the goalposts

The one-man show staged at the visitors’ centre, The Greensman, is a multi-media portrayal of the history of the Green Point Common and

actor Apollo Ntshoko is the idea person to play the title role. “When I was a schoolboy at Langa High School, I used to come and watch soccer here,” he says of the new stadium’s site. Langa is a black township less than 10 minutes’ drive from central Cape Town. The Greensman is sure to evoke a sense of nostalgia for locals who know the area’s background and provide a gripping history lesson for adult and child visitors.

“The best thing about his job,” Ntshoko says, is to see people who were vehemently opposed to the building of the 2010 Green Point Stadium, leaving the centre having changed their minds and being big fans.

“It is a privilege for me to be telling this story and to play a small part in this, the first Fifa World Cup to be hosted on African soil. I can’t explain the feeling. My biggest wish is for the World Cup to open with The Greensman.”

Lecture series, schools programme

Murray & Roberts and WBHO’s latest venture is the 2010 Lecture Series, which was launched in July 2008. “Hosted twice a month, these lectures will include a guided tour of the stadium construction site so the public will have a total experience of our spectacular 2010 stadium,” says Dantu.

“All the lectures will be conducted by interesting and passionate experts who are integrally involved in the planning and implementation of national projects towards 2010.”

The first lecture, on 13 August 2008, was presented by the stadium’s leading architectural firm, GMP Architekten of Germany. Project manager Robert Hormes discussed the design, construction and future use of the 2010 stadium and gave some background on GMP’s work globally.

The visitors’ centre, in partnership with the City of Cape Town, also runs a free schools programme, which includes a tour of the centre, history on the Green Point Common and information on careers in engineering, architecture and construction. Murray & Roberts and WBHO use the buses for transporting its workers to ferry the youth to and from the centre – sometimes travelling as far as 72km to ensure South Africa’s younger generation in more rural areas don’t miss out on the developments.

“So far over 6000 children have visited the centre. Soccer is a nice way of integrating communities from different backgrounds. It gives all the children something to aspire to, and makes the 2010 World Cup seem accessible to them,” Dantu says.

Power of 10

The visitors’ centre also doubles up as the site where new workers are inducted. “New workers get a motivational piece using soccer as inspiration for life,” says Dantu. “Football analogies with important qualities such as being a team player and keeping your eye on the ball are highlighted. To complete the stadium on time, we need workers to be motivated, to pull together and to be aware of safety measures such as wearing a hard hat at all times, wearing the correct regulation boots and not using a cellphone on site.”

Inspiration and motivation are not limited to the induction, but extend to the construction site as well. As football fans know, the striker, who wears the number 10 jersey, is one of the most integral members of a football team. Some of the world’s most revered footballers have played this position, including Brazilian star Edison Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé; Argentinian Diego Maradona; Portugal’s Eusebio (Eusébio da Silva Ferreira); Brazilian Ronaldinho (real name Ronaldo de Assis Moreira); and Frenchman Zinedine Zidane.

All the workers on the site wear overalls with the number 10 on the back, which signifies the crucial role each one has to play in the construction process, irrespective of their level of experience. It also denotes the importance of teamwork.

With all the initiatives that Murray & Roberts and WBHO have undertaken at the Green Point Stadium, there’s no doubt they will leave a legacy behind. After the 2010 Fifa World Cup, the area around the stadium will be integrated into an urban park, says Dantu. “The plan is to have a big garden which is open and free to the public, with a walkway from the stadium to the beach front and the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.”

Visitors’ Centre information

Tours can be adapted for different groups and cost R40 for adults and R20 for children and pensioners.

Times of tours

  • Monday to Friday: 10h00 and 14h00
  • Saturdays: 10h00 and 12h00
  • Free school tours: 12h00 daily

Tickets to the 2010 Lecture Series cost R100.

Contact Lana at the Green Point Stadium Visitors’ Centre on +27 (0)21 430 0410 or email lana@greenpointstadiumvc.co.za

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