Euphoric World Cup opening tinged with Mandela tragedyJune 11th, 2010 - 7:50 pm ICT by IANS
Johannesburg, June 11 (DPA) South African football fans wrapped in the rainbow colours of the national flag streamed to the majestic Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg Friday for the historic opening game in the first World Cup in Africa, but the celebration was tinged with sadness following the death in a car crash of a great grand-daughter of former president Nelson Mandela.
Mandela, who had been expected to attend the game, cancelled his appearance over the tragedy.
Excitement levels in the host country, where kick-off in the opening game between South Africa and Mexico is seen as a victory over the country’s critics, are running at fever pitch.
Ticket holders began converging on the calabash-shaped Soccer City in Soweto township, 25 km from Johannesburg, several hours before the gates opened at 10 a.m. (8 a.m. GMT).
Most companies gave their workers a half-day off to attend the game or watch it at home or with others on giant screens in a fan park or public viewing area.
Traffic around the 94,000-seat venue was chaotic as shuttle buses arriving from park-and-ride points and private cars jostled to pass police checkpoints into car parks.
The buzzing sound of thousands of vuvuzelas - the plastic trumpets beloved by South African football fans - rang out across the city, ricocheting between the gold mine dump that ring the city.
“Make us proud”, the Sowetan daily urged the national side Bafana Bafana in its front-page headline.
“The world in Bafana’s (national team’s) hands,” Johannesburg’s The Star newspaper declared.
A maximum 88,000 tickets have been sold to the game, which is being attended by around 40 heads of state, including Mexican President Felipe Calderon, US Vice President Joe Biden and a slew of African leaders.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has confirmed his attendance. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes, was invited by the government but declined to be present.
The game at 4 p.m. (2 p.m. GMT) will be preceded by an African-themed 30-minute opening ceremony featuring thousands of dancers and musicians.
Mandela, 91, who campaigned vigorously for South Africa to host the World Cup, had been expected to attend part of the game, despite his advanced age.
But the Nelson Mandela Foundation said it “would be inappropriate for him to personally attend the 2010 World Cup opening celebrations” following the death of his great grand-daughter earlier Friday in a car crash while returning from the World Cup kick-off concert in Soweto.
Mandela would be there “in spirit,” the foundation said.
- Mandela's great-granddaughter killed in car crash - Jun 11, 2010
- Freeman, Theron among celebs to attend World Cup final - Jul 10, 2010
- Mandela will attend World Cup opening game - Jun 03, 2010
- Mandela arrives at World Cup final - Jul 12, 2010
- No word still on Mandela's presence during World Cup final - Jul 05, 2010
- Mandela still undecided about attending opening game - Jun 10, 2010
- Mandela will not attend World Cup opening ceremony (Lead) - Jun 11, 2010
- Mandela won't attend World Cup opening ceremony (Second Lead) - Jun 11, 2010
- Mandela likely to make appearance at the final - Jul 11, 2010
- Football World Cup begins officially - Jun 11, 2010
- Grieving Mandela won't attend opening World Cup match - Jun 11, 2010
- Nelson Mandela's great-granddaughter killed in car crash after World Cup concert - Jun 11, 2010
- No news on World Cup trophy presenter - Jul 07, 2010
- Nelson Mandela's great granddaughter killed in a car crash - Jun 11, 2010
- With heavy heart, a proud South Africa bid adieu to the world - Jul 10, 2010
Tags: excitement levels, fever pitch, giant screens, international criminal court, joe biden, mexican president felipe calderon, nelson mandela, omar al bashir, police checkpoints, president felipe calderon, president nelson mandela, president robert mugabe, rainbow colours, robert mugabe, seat venue, shuttle buses, south african football, soweto township, sudanese president, zimbabwean president robert mugabe