Cape Town counts down to kick-off
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.