It had been about three or four months since the last time I had seen Soccer City, and I was aware that the arena was nearing completion, but the stadium was an impressive sight from the moment I approached it.
I drove down to the stadium, and it was an exhilarating
feeling turning into Nasrec road and suddenly seeing the mosaic calabash figure
filling the horizon in the distance. The feeling of goosebumps and excitement
was probably a mix of my South African pride and the incredible feeling of
accomplishment in the face of many doubters, with regards to the first African
World Cup and specifically the issue of stadium readiness.
The ability of South Africa to host a fine World Cup has
been questioned many times over the last few years, but a visit to Soccer City
will do wonders for those who are still skeptical when it comes to the hosting
of football’s greatest competition.
An arena with a seating capacity surpassing that of the new
Wembley, the Johannesburg venue will host eight games during the 2010 event,
including the opening match and ceremony and of course the final on 11 July.
Revil Baselga was our tour guide for the day, and
he showed us around the Soccer City stadium while explaining a number of
interesting facts. The architectural design of the stadium was selected from a
series of concept designs, which were meant to represent Africa.
or African pot design, proposed by Boogertman Urban Edge + Partners was
selected as being the most recognisable object to represent what would
automatically be associated with the African continent and not any other.
Baselga explained that the calabash is meant to represent a
melting pot of African cultures, which sits on a raised podium, on top of which
is located a ‘pit of fire’. Thus the pot sits in a depression, which is the
‘pit of fire’, as if it were being naturally fired.
The pot’s façade is made up of laminated fibre reinforced
concrete panels, in a selection of eight colours and two textures that make reference
to the shades and textures of the calabash. The pot is punctured by open or
glazed panels which create a suggestion of pattern on the façade that comes
into its own when the inside volumes are illuminated.
Upon the façade 10 vertical slots can be seen, which are
aligned geographically with the 9 other 2010 stadia, as well as the Berlin stadium.
These are representative of the road to the final, and it is hoped that, after
the World Cup, the scores of each game at each venue will be placed in pre-cast
concrete panels on the podium. A visit to the stadium will thus provide one
with a full history of the World Cup and all its scores.
The media press conference room at Soccer City Stadium is
being prepared before a state of the art media makeover comes into play. The
guide explained that the latest technology will be used to make the stadium
modern in terms of the technical, sound system and media equipment side of
As for transport to the stadium, the site is directly north
of the proposed new Nasrec Transportation Hub and pedestrian mall, linking the
stadium to the redeveloped Expo Centre to the south. The transportation hub
will accommodate taxi, bus, and rapid transit services, thus providing good
public transport links to the precinct and the stadium.
A secondary Bus Rapid
Transit station is also proposed on the Soweto highway to the north of the
stadium, which will further strengthen the public transport links to the
stadium. All of this is to be set in a revamped Nasrec precinct, which will
boast new roads, and pedestrian walkways with lighting, signage, landscaping,
CCT, and public amenities.
Lucky enough to have been guided around the stadium by Mr
Baselga, I was able to take a look at the pitch, which had been planted in
August and was growing nicely. No one was allowed to walk on the grass, but
Baselga expected it to be a fine pitch by around February or so.
The tour took me through the players' tunnel at the middle of
the pitch, where World Cup stars will be entering the pitch before the games,
which will shape the story of the 2010 showpiece event. Walking out of the
tunnel and towards the pitch had a magical effect, and if it were not for some
pitch side work that was being carried out, I may have felt what it was like to
walk onto the pitch of a World Cup final venue.
Up in the stands I found what will be considered one of the
cheapest seats in the stadium, but the fact is there are no bad seats in the
place, as no obstructive views mean that even those seats at the very top of
the 91,000 seat stadium have a fine view of the entire pitch. It was quite
Finally it was time to visit the VIP area, which was still
being completed, but the view from inside the room and out on the balcony will
certainly allow the likes of Sepp Blatter, Nelson Mandela and other important
individuals to have a five star experience at any of the Soccer City games.
Soccer City is a majestic stadium, and it will be a true gem
come July 2010, when the world will be watching South Africa and the World Cup
champions will be crowned on a podium in the venue. Africa can be proud of a
fine stadium, which will no doubt contribute in a big way to a fine World Cup.
Peter Pedroncelli, Goal.com