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Cape Town counts down to kick-off

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Paul Fletcher | 14:15 UK time, Thursday, 10 June 2010

World Cup 2010: Cape Town

Cape Town brings to mind a student indulging in some desperate last-minute cramming prior to an exam that could have a big impact on his or her future.

The immediate vicinity around the magnificent £40m Green Point Stadium is a hive of activity, with many last-minute touches being undertaken, as well as some slightly more drastic action.

On Wednesday, I saw the empty shells of several large kiosks in front of the ground. The banners advertising their respective products hung across the different frontages but there was nothing inside them except frantic workmen holding an assortment of drills, hammers and various building tools.

When I walked past again on Thursday afternoon, significant progress had been made.

As for the media accreditation centre, that was awash with firemen, security, police, medical and service staff, all waiting patiently in line as Cape Town gears up for the opening of the World Cup and Friday's game between France and Uruguay.

Green Point Stadium, perched by the Atlantic coast with Table Mountain as its backdrop, boasts an incredible location.

It's also an incredible venue.


When I first saw it close up in the bright sunlight, slightly jet lagged admittedly, I thought for a split second that the stadium was a cruise ship anchored in the port.

Seeing the structure at close quarters and looking down on it from Table Mountain, there is no doubt about its originality and brilliance.

Less impressive was an event at the Cape Town International Convention Centre that featured former England international John Barnes rapping a reworked version of the chorus he performed on New Order's 1990 song World in Motion.

"You've got to hold and give, but do it at the right time...." Never have those words sounded quite so sad.

The 500 England supporters due to provide the bulk of the audience did not show, their participation halted by a delayed flight. Instead, a small group of locals, who, it seemed, had never heard of World in Motion, were quickly drafted in.

At times, it made for excruciating viewing as Barnes and co-host Darren Gough tried to work the sparse crowd.

To be fair to Barnes, he was extraordinarily professional, quickly grasping that his audience wanted to hear the beat of a different drum. Instead, he tried to rouse them with a very passable version of Sugarhill Gang's classic tune Rapper's Delight.

It was a case of wrong time, wrong place, but I don't think it is the shape of things to come over the next five weeks.

By and large, there seems to be a general sense of enthusiasm, expectancy and excitement as the hours tick down until South Africa open the tournament with their fixture against Mexico in Johannesburg at 1500 BST on Friday.

There appears to be a widespread belief, particularly among younger fans, that the host nation can defy expectations and progress to the latter stages of the tournament.

But there is also the feeling that this World Cup can have a profound impact on how the continent of Africa is perceived by the millions watching from abroad.

"There was doubt and scepticism from many parts of the world," observed Fifa president Sepp Blatter, quite correctly, of his organisation's decision to grant the tournament to the rainbow nation.

But there is a real sense out here that South Africa are representing the whole of Africa and have a chance to show that the continent can deliver such a prestigious event - and in a fresh and original way.

"Having a World Cup in Africa is important for many reasons," said Barnes once his rapping stint was over. "One of them is to dispel the myths of South Africa. I am from Jamaica and when I tell people I am visiting home they have the same fears - that it will be terrible with a lot of violence."

There have also been comparisons with the 1995 Rugby World Cup, which was hosted by South Africa and won by the Springboks. As with that event, there is the hope that the 2010 tournament might help to forge a more united nation as it continues to mature more than a decade and a half after the end of apartheid.

At times, it can seem as though the tournament is omnipresent. Football is dominating TV schedules, with every advert seemingly boasting a World Cup theme.

Every shop has branded products to sell, supporters' flags flutter from cars and the, ahem, distinctive sound of vuvuzelas can be heard on every street corner.

Perhaps it was not surprising that the headline in the Cape Times on Thursday screamed: "Soccer mania sweeps South Africa."

I personally would not go that far just yet. I have watched the TV images from Johannesburg of thousands of people feverish with excitement, but the tournament feels as though it is still simmering in Cape Town.

The locals might be excited, but I have not seen many visiting supporters. I am told that many are arriving on Thursday, with more flying in on Friday. As yet, I don't think I have seen a single France fan.

Nobody is quite sure exactly how many fans will travel to South Africa, but I hope there are enough to create the vibrant, multicultural atmosphere that is such a crucial part of a major tournament experience.

It is also vitally important that the home fans are given something to encourage them. Barnes asked the Bafana Bafana supporters that listened to him rapping not to be too discouraged if South Africa do not beat Mexico on Friday.

But I get the impression that in Cape Town a victory for Carlos Alberto Parreira's team would definitely bring the World Cup to life.

You can follow me throughout the World Cup at


  • Comment number 1.

    Why were Barnes and Gough in Cape Town, when the English are up north? Odd scheduling.

  • Comment number 2.

    there were quite a few france fans at the waterfront yesterday. also, if you were on long street around lunch time then you would surely not say that cape town is "simmering"!

    @ lammergeier, the convention centre in cape town is hosting "cool britannia" an indoor fanfest running thoughtout the tournament. its where estelle is playing tomorrow night and fatboy slim next week. Each day has a different country theme but the overall theme is brit-centric. Im guessing that they have it in CT rather than up north because CT is the biggest tourist destination.

  • Comment number 3.

    That Green Point stadium is a magnificent structure and wonderful achievement coming in at £40m Paul - especially when you consider how much stadia costs to build here.

    It's good to hear about the 'belief, particularly among younger fans, that the host nation can defy expectations', but isn't that the same for all fans when no-one's won or lost yet? we all believe. As you get older and the disappointments rack up one after the other it does becomes harder though..ask England supporters and their 44 years of hurt.

    One question, do North Africans really feel S.A. are representing them too or is that just a romantic 'Lion King' certainly isn't like that between most European teams apart from in Eurovision?

  • Comment number 4.

    Its not just in the last few weeks that SA went football crazy. I was in Cape Town in February and there were football channels showing football all day. They even broadcast live games of liverpool reserves and from the commentary you would have thought it was the FA Cup final.
    Also when you drive along the motorways, you see hundreds of football games in progress along both sides of the roads as you drive through the miles of shanty-towns around the city centres.
    I just hope they do well. The nation/continent deserves it and we spoiled europeans can certainly survive not being the stars this time.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Paul,
    I'm a brit who has been living in Cape Town for the last 15 years, and I can honestly say that The Capetonians are just as excited as any other part of SA. The passion that has been shown in the last few weeks by most people has been great, and while there still be one or two people who are not that interested I would say it is a very small minority and isn't that the case in most countries in the world.
    Personally I can't wait to go to the stadium for the first time on Monday and while I'm sure it will be a different atmosphere to Old Trafford or the Bridge, on a Saturday afternoon, it will have a truly South African feel and even if we don't get the numbers from overseas the locals will make up for that.
    I hope you enjoy your time over hear as.

  • Comment number 6.

    Dear Mr Fletcher

    The 'Green Point Stadium' cost £220 million, not £40m. Perhaps you were thinking of the old stadium which was demolished to make way for this one? Even with lower labour costs in SA you can't build a 70,000 seater for £40m!

  • Comment number 7.

    I'm very excited for the World Cup, no matter where it is.
    But I just think that using South Africa to speak for the entire continent of Africa is so completely wrong and over-hyped. There are so many things so completely different about South Africa compared to other places in Africa that using this WC as a litmus test of sorts is not fair to the rest of the continent, and the hype-speech given out by so many of its organizers will end up biting them in the arse.
    I think the jury's still out, and we'll see how it goes in South Africa a year after the WC. You never know. I just think they should tone down their overzealous "we can do it well and even better than other places" type speech, because sensible people know that the foreign fans' turnout is just not that good.

  • Comment number 8.

    My friend is boarding a flight at Heathrow to Cape Town ask i type this. He just sent me a message saying that there are quite a few england fans in the airport, and hes talked to some that dont have tickets yet! I find that totally crazy. It took me a while to get tickets for Cape Town, but eventually got them online last weekend. It hasn't been that hard to get tickets. Long way to come without them!

  • Comment number 9.

    Lets hope the tournament shows Africa, and South Africa in particular in a good light, as this is a great opportunity for the country to boost it's tourism industry. Many people in Europe are put off from visiting what is a beautiful country because of the appalling Crime figures.

  • Comment number 10.

    6 is right Paul. Even with exchange rate/ labour costs, you couldn't build a stadium of the size and quality of green point for £40 million!

    Multiply that by 5 and you'd still be short. Where did you get that figure from?

  • Comment number 11.

    Thanks for the comments.

    First up - in terms of the cost, I got 4 billion rand off the sa2010 government website - though having said that, I did find a cost of £220m widely quoted elsewhere so that could well be my mistake.

    Secondly - WOAH CAPE TOWN. I took a wander through the area in and around Long Street in the centre this evening (Thursday) and can happily report that the World Cup party has definitely now started in the city.

    The deafening sound of the vuvuzela, streets throbbing with people dancing and singing and making lots of noise. Loads of Bafana Bafana fans and plenty from other nations. At one point a posse of Uruguay fans worked their way down the centre of Long Street. Flags from Nigeria, Australia, England, the US, all sorts - although still precious little in the way of France supporters.

    I just felt sorry for the poor souls on the bus trying to make their way home with no obvious indication that they would get there anytime soon.

    In other news, the BBC bus (not the one trying to get down Long Street) that I will be travelling through South Africa on for the duration of the World Cup is now in Cape Town and ready to leave first thing on Saturday morning.

    Before that comes the Uruguay-France game and I will be blogging about that on Saturday.

  • Comment number 12.

    I seriously doubt that Greenpoint Stadium cost £40 million. I suspect the number is more like 10 times that, given that the total cost of all the stadiums, some of which were only refurbished, was around £3 billion. Either way, it is a magnificent venue, as are all the other stadia.

    Regardless, it's going to be an incredible World Cup. Good luck Bafana Bafana!

  • Comment number 13.

    Greenpoint stadium looks amazing whatever the cost, I'm sure CT will be buzzing!

  • Comment number 14.

    Hi Paul.

    The latest SA Rand/GBP exchange rate is 11.33, so '4 billion rand' would be over £350m not £40m... hope you haven't been changing your currency somewhere dodgy if you're getting quoted 100 to 1!

  • Comment number 15.

    smellslikesalmon - you want to visit my cash exchange bureau! You can see why I don't work in finance.

    lammergeier (post one) - They were both here advertising a brand of chocolate bar, although I believe John Barnes will also be working for a local TV broadcaster.

    Got a taxi back to the hotel from the centre of Cape Town tonight. The driver was convinced Bafana Bafana will win the World Cup. And I don't even think he'd been drinking.

  • Comment number 16.

    What a negative view from your typical Brit.

    Where is Robbo when u need him.

  • Comment number 17.

    "Got a taxi back to the hotel from the centre of Cape Town tonight. The driver was convinced Bafana Bafana will win the World Cup. And I don't even think he'd been drinking."

    Haha Paul I totally know what you mean! The nation really is behind Bafana Bafana and its great. There is a huge amount of pride and excitement around at the moment. I am a little worried though that they could be in for a shock come tomorrow afternoon. I hope not.

  • Comment number 18.

    #JoC, you actually don't have to go that far north to see whether Africa is feeling the world cup. I suspect for political correctness reasons this world cup is being branded as Africa's world cup, simply because it is being hosted by an African nation. I stay in Botswana and I can say yes there is excitement but nothing more than if the WC was in Uruguay or Antarctica. For all intents and purposes this is a South African world cup. Another point, you often hear people saying vuvuzela's are an African feature, yet nothing could be further from the truth. They are distinctly a feature of South African football. You'd be hard pressed to find them anywhere else on the continent

  • Comment number 19.

    who is paul fletcher has he been to cape town?

  • Comment number 20.

    Paul I leave the money conversion down to google :)

    searching "4 billion rand to sterling" gives back
    4 billion South African rands = 353.405876 million British pounds

    hope its useful. Looking forward to kickoff tonight can imagine the Buzz around in SA, well and the rest of the world I guess

  • Comment number 21.

    Went down for breakfast in the hotel this morning. All the staff have their Bafana Bafana T-shirts on, face paint and mini vuvuzelas. I can hear the sound of vuvuzelas from my hotel room.

    I think it is fair to say that Cape Town has caught a fair old dose of footy fever.

  • Comment number 22.

    One question, do North Africans really feel S.A. are representing them too or is that just a romantic 'Lion King' certainly isn't like that between most European teams apart from in Eurovision? your europe people you really amaze me with your quetions????

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment won't go down too well but I actually hope the World Cup goes quite badly in South Africa this summer. I'm hoping that the football is excellent but I just wish for something to go disastrously wrong that proves everything isn't sunshine and kittens in Africa just because they have the World Cup.

    For years many many nations have been pumping billions (£$) into Africa as a continent for things to improve over there yet nothing ever seems to change. The likes of Mugabe still ruin thousands of lives, there's still mass famine and disease. Even in the run up to the start of this years World Cup people have been warned about the amazing crime rate in South Africa.

    African football may have come a long way in recent years but the decay of the continent is still very clear to see. Sugar coating how great Africa is with giving them a World Cup seems very very naive.

  • Comment number 24.

    So £220 million ish for a stadium eh?....I hate to rain on anyones parade but South Africa is still a desperately poor nation with the highest incidence of child mortality and hiv in the world. You only have to scratch below the glittering world of Cape Town City Centre to find it..

    For those who live there, just imagine what a difference £220m would have made in Khayelitsha,Langa, Bonteheuwel and the many squatter camps just outside the City..

    What those kids need is food, medicine and homes not a bloody stadium...still enjoy your world cup and forget how many kids will die during it....

  • Comment number 25.

    the reason everyone should like the world cup

  • Comment number 26.

    Something I picked up from the web for you international guys to check out, so you understand what this means to our country :)

    I was on Long Street last night in Cape Town, and the scenes that greeted me were utterly fantastic. Germans, Australians, Greeks, Chileans, English, Americans, Uruguayans, South Africans and Frenchman were all over the show doing their best to inject their own particular national brand of energy into the evening’s proceedings. Even outside the Grand Parade by City Hall, I saw a show of national colours that had me suffering the hee-bee-jee-bees.

    While the world has been building up to the 2010 World Cup for perhaps a year, for South Africans, we have been waiting sevens years, and that waiting is over. The time has come to show the world what South Africa is all about.

    A person I live with mentioned to me that South Africans are so scared of looking bad to the outside world that we act friendly because of that. I’m sure there are many who think that negatively, but to all you doubters, nay-sayers and harbingers of doom: get stuffed.

    Our national psyche is an incredibly complex one. The South Africa of today is a melting pot of colours, cultures, and creeds. We have one of the world’s highest crime rates, generations across the colour spectrum (divide is the world the naysayers would use) will forever be touched and affected by our history, we battle to ensure those that follow don’t inherit our prejudices, and the future is uncertain.

    So why do I feel so positive today, June 11 2010? Through all the doubt, through all the crime (I myself have been mugged in the last month at knife point), through all the bad press, through all the blood curdling actions of our immature political leadership, we now stand on the brink of history.

    International observers might wonder why our country is going balls to the wall in the name of what is after all, just a soccer/football tournament. They probably already know about the economic benefits that the tournament will bring (and its disadvantages) and maybe they, ‘the international’, have an inkling of what it means to us to host the rest of the world.

    The fact of the matter is, as South Africans, we all share a unique history and common story that is unique to our land. We are conscious of our failings, perhaps too much so, as we are weighed down by our guilt, our desires, our expectations, and our debts to each other.

    However, it is moments like these where I realise how blessed I am to be a South African. The problems we have today are nothing compared to what we are still conquering, every moment of everyday. Everyday this nation, in one guise or another, challenges itself to move beyond the easy, ignore the short cut and push forward, one step at a time. Where on earth can you be raised in such a vibrant and interesting place?

    Today is a day for all South Africans. I, for one, have never been prouder to be a son of this land, a son of Africa, and most of all, South African. Watching Desmond Tutu show his unbridled joy to millions yesterday on television was wonderful to watch, since even though I was in a bar surrounded by foreigners, I have never felt more at home. While this time of national joy will last a month, by Christ, we deserve it.

    In unity there is strength, in our diversity there is power. Together, as we have now shown the world, we can do it. We won’t always get it right and not all the time, but now is the time to lap up the national bread and honey that we all need. Our role now is to welcome the world and show them a party they have never experienced before, and make sure they never forget.

  • Comment number 27.


    Yes there is still mass poverty! but you too would be greatly naive to think that money will stop the problem....child will die, drugs will ravage the landscape....people will go hungry...we can and prevent it, but we cant stop it.....its the way o fthe AFRICAN LIFE....IT REALLY DOES NOT MATTER HOW MUCH MONEY YOU PUMP INTO IT...YOU HAVE TO EDUCATE THE PEOPLE FIRST......(excuse the caps, ive just realised).

    The World Cup bring hope and happiness to people...I for one would rather the SA children argue over who will win the cup, or play football then smoke 'tik'....

    Im not blind Im a realist!

  • Comment number 28.

    #22 swazii wrote: your europe people you really amaze me with your quetions????

    Sorry, in what way do you mean? I was just querying being constantly told by the 'romanticised' western media that the tournament in S.A. is completely representative of Africa as a whole and everthing 'there-in' no matter where you live on that vast continent and you are all equally proud/excited/happy they've got it and not your own nation and will support's a genuine question? I know it's Africa's first host World Cup, but in Europe having a tournament in say the Ukraine is quite different from hosting one in say Spain (not worse just different), and S.A. gets to host loads of international rugby and cricket etc too. It's not their first big event. Can S.A be compared to Egypt?

    The comment by #18 MugabelovestheEPL seems to suggest we are being fed a lot of story book fiction that's a bit patronising and irritating to some. It's Africa so wheel out the Safari images. No matter where in the world it's hosted people would be on the streets in footie kits with flags, mixing and having a good time. I'm no way knocking this and hope the tournament is brilliant so Fifa will have 'no excuse' not to return to other parts of the continent in the future, but will Botswana/Zimbabwe/Ethiopia/Sudan etc benefit by supporting S.A or is it just like asking Holland to support Germany?

  • Comment number 29.

    I hope this blog is truely international.
    Are my fellow football fans & readers aware of how the internet portal of one of Spain's national television channels Telecinco describes this sporting event?
    They refer to as the first world cup to be staged in a "black continent (continente negro).

  • Comment number 30.

    This is the first soccer world cup in Africa. I am proud of what is happening in S Africa_ the excitement, the cooperation and focus of all. I hope the criminals will bury their tools of trade and let us savour the flavour of this great time. I hope the unity will continue after the soccer fiesta. I hope the xenophobia will cease. I hope the racial and economic divide be further addressed. I hope. I hope...and I hope all Africans will hope. We will not squander this marvellous opportunity. Viva S Africa, Viva Africa. Viva FIFA.

  • Comment number 31.

    sandokhan (post 29) - if it isn't then I've failed. And if you feel it isn't, be sure to let me know.

    Some interesting comments about the merits and wisdom of hosting the competition in a country with so many problems.

    I guess on one level, if you always looked to stage the World Cup in a financially stable country then it would always end up in the first world and every tournament would look and feel the same.

    Having said that, I do appreciate the argument that the money involved in staging the World Cup could have been used elsewhere.

    I'm not sure that too many people in the centre of Cape Town at the moment are concerned about this debate. They seem to be focusing on having a very good time - and appear to be doing so with quite some style, noise and energy.

    I'll be at the Uruguay v France game this evening at Green Point. I'm hoping to write a blog tomorrow after watching the two sides in action.

    The BBC bus which is travelling around the country during the tournament leaves Cape Town early on Saturday morning, heading along the Garden Route towards Port Elizabeth.

    Along the way we will be checking out numerous different places to get a feel for the World Cup in some of the smaller towns and I hope to update with all that on this blog.

  • Comment number 32.

    From the live feed today...
    "France are taking far too long to transition the ball from defence to attack." Is transition a verb now? What was wrong with 'transfer'?

  • Comment number 33.

    it won't be that easy for England

  • Comment number 34.

    The 2010 World Cup experience was very exciting! And I believe that South Africa grabbed their chance to shine as host nation with both hands and the world took notice of the success of the biggest sporting event on the planet!
    Agreed with # 27 – Yes, there was a great deal of negativity and much was said when South Africa was awarded the right to host the 2010 World Cup, but the only way to prove the doubters wrong was through patience and perseverance. There are profound and visible problems around, crime and poverty which must be addressed but South Africa absolutely heading in the right direction and I'm sure things will improve further.
    The important thing now is that the expense of the tournament is managed correctly, and that's a huge challenge. South Africa made the entire African continent proud and proved the critics wrong concerning their ability to host the world.
    This is what South Africa and the South African people have done -- welcomed the world brilliantly!
    I think, the future looks bright for South Africa and the country is now on the world map for given the world a unique and wholly pleasing tournament. This country has so much to offer and I hope that it continues on the path of achieving its full potential.


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