BFN abuzz over Oprah's arrival

Bloemfontein - Huge excitement was evident at the Bloemfontein campus of the University of the Free State on Thursday in anticipation of American talk show host Oprah Winfrey's visit to receive an honorary doctorate on Friday.

Campus security was beefed up, while students and staff were busy with last minute arrangements for the ceremony in the 4500 seat Callie Human Hall.

Tickets for students to attend the event were taken up within hours of the announcement, and public tickets were sold out on the same day.

The UFS would be awarding an honorary doctorate in education to the "global media icon, philanthropist and public educator" to recognise Winfrey's accomplishments as media leader and philanthropist with vision in the field of education and development.

Fan park

"It is a great privilege for the UFS to be the first South African university to honour Ms Winfrey in this way and to be able to recognise a global icon of her stature," Rector Jonathan Jansen said in a statement.

Winfrey was expected to stay in Bloemfontein for only a few hours to receive the doctorate and to talk to students.

Some 60 news journalist and photographers were expected on the campus, with very strict rules and movement arrangements. Those attending the ceremony were expected to be seated in the hall an hour before the ceremony starts.

Although not a stranger to South Africa due to her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls at Henley on Klip in Gauteng, the popular American talk show host was creating a buzz in the Free State capital.

The UFS student radio station has promoted a "fan park" area with big screens for fans who missed out on tickets.

Support

The event has also influenced local newspapers and radio stations which have run with promotions such as "What would you say to Oprah, if you could meet her?" and "We're looking for the biggest Oprah supporter" on their web pages.

Placards welcoming Oprah to Bloemfontein are also up on lamp posts in the streets.

On the Facebook page of the local newspaper Die Volksblad many readers have poured out their support for Oprah.

Elzaan Du Preez said she and Oprah shared a birthday.

"She's big in the small things!! She truly inspires - no movie like the colour purple!!"

Chantel Viljoen said she was probably the biggest "fan" in South Africa. "Sy is regtig n engel vir mense. (She is really an angel for people)."

No Media

Hendrika Bosman-Fitzgerald said Oprah's popularity was because she gives with love.

"Sy gee met liefde en is altyd nederig al is sy beroemd (She gives with love, and is always humble even though she is famous)."

Manager of the Bloemfontein Airport Johan Scholtz said the request was that no media be allowed at the airport.

A private vehicle would pick up Winfrey at her private aircraft on the tarmac and bring her to the UFS.



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