African themes for new World Cup stadiums

2009-11-24 12:09

South Africa has pulled out all the stops in building five new

stadiums and upgrading five others for the World Cup.

Initial fears that the new stadiums would not be completed on time

for the tournament because of a late start to construction in some places and a

series of worker strikes have come to naught.

With six months to go until kick-off, eight of the grounds are

completed and the remaining two - Soccer City in Johannesburg and Cape Town

Stadium - are within striking distance.

Visually, the 400 000 or so foreign visitors expected at the

tournament are in for a treat.

From the calabash-shaped Soccer City showpiece in Johannesburg to

Durban’s arch-endowed Moses Mabhida stadium and Cape Town’s

exquisitely-appointed Greenpoint venue, South Africa is out to show that African

and world-class – a buzzword here – are not incompatible.

To press home the point some of the stadiums have African-inspired

designs or touches.

Soccer City

The calabash, which lends its shape to Soccer City, is a gourd-like

vegetable that is hollowed out and used as a container for food or water.

“In essence the calabash represents Africa’s great appreciation for

life and is also indicative of our spirit of ubuntu (an African philosophy of

shared humanity),” according to the City of Johannesburg.

The 89 000-seat venue, which was the most costly of the upgrades at

R3,4 billion, is covered in red and brown tiles that glow in the setting sun and

at night is lit up from below by a “pit of fire“, giving it the aspect of a

simmering cauldron.



While the cooking pot is an apt symbol for Johannesburg as a

melting pot of cultures, the giraffe inspired a key detail on Mbombela stadium

in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga.

Set in a rolling landscape of citrus orchards on the doorstep of

Kruger National Park, the new, R1,3 billion, 45 000-seat stadium is supported by

18 giant orange pylons in the shape of giraffes.

Peter Mokaba


Africa’s most recognisable tree, the baobab, features in the design

of a new stadium in northern Limpopo province. The four corner columns

supporting the roof on Peter Mokaba Stadium, a 45 000-seat venue in Polokwane,

represent the “upside-down tree” – although the similarities are not immediately


Moses Mabhida


While there is nothing obviously African about Moses Mabhida

Stadium in Durban, the port city is hoping that the semi-final venue, which

includes an athletics track and is part of a precinct including a 50m swimming

pool, will host the first Olympic Games in Africa in 2024.

Situated on the shores of the Indian Ocean, the new 70 000-seat

stadium is architecturally the most daring, being straddled by a central 106m

high arch, which visitors can ascend in a cable car for a bird’s eye view of the

city – or a bungee jump, if they have the gumption.

Cape Town


As far as location goes, however, Cape Town’s new Greenpoint

stadium, or Cape Town Stadium as it was recently renamed, sweeps the


The 68 000-seater stadium, which will host several games including

a semi-final game, is sandwiched between Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean

with views across to Robben Island. At R4,5 billion it is the priciest of the 10

venues - the choice of location having added substantially to the bill.

Nelson Mandela Bay


The first of the new stadiums to be completed back in June, a whole

year before the Cup, was Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth. The

stadium is the first dedicated to football in the capital of Eastern Cape

province and is named after former president Nelson Mandela, who hails from the


The 47 000-seat stadium which overlooks a lake and has a striking

fluted roof, has already hosted several international rugby and football games

this year.


Four other stadiums underwent smaller upgrades for the tournament:

Ellis Park in Johannesburg, Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, the Royal Bafokeng

Stadium outside Rustenburg in North-West province and Free State Stadium in


Labour Research Service, a Cape Town-based trade union think-tank,

estimates the final bill for the 10 stadiums and related infrastructure will

come out at R17,4 billion.

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