Today is the day: the opening ceremonies and opening match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. While the U.S. team is already in Rustenburg (two hours north of Johannesburg), where they will train today, the crush is at Soccer City in Johannesburg, where South Africa will play Mexico at 4 p.m. local time, 10 a.m. in Philly. The Opening Ceremonies will precede the game and include approximately 1,500 performers.
I’m at Soccer City. When I arrived it seemed the masses were also spilling into the stadium, so the euphoria was just beginning. (Although folks were blowing vuvuzelas on the streets most of the night, and quite consistently beginning at the crack of dawn.)
At a coffee shop in Sandton called “Mugg and Bean,” I stopped for a latte this morning. The place was filled with pairs wearing South Africa’s green-and-yellow game jersey. The waiter said this World Cup is the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to South Africa. The roads are jammed. It took our bus nearly 90 minutes to go 15 miles. People are getting out of cars and walking to Soccer City.
I posted two videos. The first is from yesterday’s scene outside of Soccer City: the advertising set ups and tents (specifically Castrol’s “Challenge Ronaldo” tent) and a video from today, which begins with the Mexico fans who are dressed in various constumes.
It’s early, but you can watch on one of the ESPN channels.
Here are the most interesting notes as Day 1 of the World Cup begins:
1. Pele has predicted that the World Cup final will be played between Brazil and “an African team.” Africa has six countries in this World Cup (I guess folks are calling them “The African Six Pack”): South Africa, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Algeria. Also of note, Pele has a new sports label, creatively named “Pele Sports.”
Pele’s exact quote: “Brazil are in my thoughts and heart, they have a good team which I have no doubt will make Brazilians proud. I foresee them playing in the final against an African team.”
2. World Cup courts! This could be near and dear to the hearts of Eagles’ fans. At a cost of R2.2 million (off the top of my head around $350,000), 56 courtrooms across the country have been allocated to deal with any World-Cup related issues. The courts operate seven days a week. So far the courts have heard a total of seven cases: a drunk driving by a Frenchman, some petty thefts, a bomb threat, and a case of counterfeit money.
3. Vuvuzelas are in trouble with the doctors. In a story today in the Sowetan, a London doctor has determined that it’s possible vuvuzelas – the South African horn that sounds like a herd of elephants – could spread the flu. Oops.
“Vuvuzelas have the potential to spread colds and flu as a lot of breath goes through the vuvuzela,” Dr. Ruth McNerney to the Sowetan, adding that they can infect others on a greater scale than coughing or shouting.
I hear vuvuzelas outside now. People are taking their chances,