By Lawrence Ostlere
The World Cup has arrived. After weeks of waiting for fans, months of qualifying for nations and years of preparation for its host country, the greatest global event in history has finally landed in Africa.
The 19th instalment of the tournament is already historic, but the aim for South Africa now is to leave a lasting legacy that benefits the continent as a whole for years to come, and undoubtedly the ingredients are all there for a very special festival of soccer in the rainbow nation.
34 nations will compete in 64 games to be crowned champions of the world, and the phrase couldn’t be more fitting. The World Cup is a truly global tournament, with up to half a million visitors expected in South Africa and many hundreds of millions more glued to television screens, all united by soccer.
But will the tournament achieve the heights its host nation hope for? “I hope that this World Cup is very special, the first on African soil. This competition will prove that South Africa, and the African continent in general is capable of organising an event of this magnitude”, said FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
The early signs certainly seem positive. Massive stadiums have been built and renovated for the tournament, including the brand new – and largest – Soccer City in Johannesburg, the location of the opening match and ceremony, as well as the final. The stadium is designed to resemble a traditional African cooking pot, a calabash, and will surely be the iconic symbol of the 2010 World Cup. Ellis Park in Cape Town is equally impressive, set against the mesmerising backdrop of Table Mountain.
And, more importantly, the fans that will fill the stadiums can not wait for the tournament to start. Many South Africans will be carrying vuvuzelas to every match, long blow-horns that when unified create a deafening sound, and will certainly generate a party atmosphere. There have been concerns about fair ticketing as many people in Africa, particularly those least well-off hoping to get a ticket to a match, have not had the chance. Maintaining safety is also still regarded as a potential pit-fall for the event, particularly after the tragic events days before the African Cup of Nations earlier this year.
However, now is not a time for worry. The untouchable brilliance of the World Cup will start in style today with the Soccer City cauldron ringing with the sound of nearly 100,000 fans and almost as many vuvzelas, as South Africa take on Mexico. The best players on the planet will be on show in the weeks to come like Messi, Ronaldo and Rooney, and will undoubtedly deliver moments of drama, controversy and genius. And the whole world will be watching, and 32 nations will be praying and one will be crowned champions of world.
Blatter couldn’t have put it better: “We find ourselves in a position of indescribable anticipation”. The waiting is over.
Lawrence Ostlere is a freelance writer and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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