Africa celebrates the continent's first
ever World Cup with a burst of joy and colour... and lots of noise The first World Cup ever held in Africa opened on Friday in a dazzling burst of joy, color and noise - and just a tinge of sadness. Before a jubilant, horn-blowing crowd in Soccer City, the spectacular stadium between Johannesburg and Soweto, hundreds of African dancers in vivid greens, reds and yellows paraded onto the field for the opening ceremony of the month-long tournament. Most of the fans were in the yellow jerseys of Bafana Bafana – the host country's team – which was playing Mexico following the pageantry.
A general view of atmosphere
during the Opening Ceremony ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group A match between South Africa and Mexico
A giant replica dung beetle
was the star attraction of the ceremony, watched by an estimated 500million people. The creature revered in South Africa because it nourishes the soil led 1,000 dancers on to the pitch and showed off its dribbling skills. But the elation was tempered by news that Nelson Mandela, the revered anti-apartheid leader and former South African president, would not attend the ceremony. The 91-year-old Mandela is frail, and decided not to come after his 13-year-old great-granddaughter was killed in a car crash on the way home from Thursday night's World Cup concert. Several other icons of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa were on hand including Mandela's former wife, Winnie, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who at one point was dancing in his seat to the music. Former South Africa President F.W. De Klerk, who shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela for negotiating an end to white-minority rule, also was present, organisers said. Other VIPs included the presidents of South Africa and Mexico - Jacob Zuma and Felipe Calderon - and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
A South African flag incorporating
the flags of each nation at the tournament is waved at the Opening Ceremony ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group A match between South Africa and Mexico
Several other icons of the
anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa were on hand - including Mandela's former wife, Winnie, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who at one point was dancing in his seat to the music
It was not an occasion
for those who like it quiet. Many of the fans came equipped with vuvuzelas – the plastic horns which emit a loud and distinctive blare. The trumpets made such a noise that free ear plugs were distributed outside the stadium to spectators. Incredibly, the din from the horns was briefly drowned out by the overflight of military jets just before the ceremony started. The public address announcer then begged the crowd to ease up on the horns so the global television audience could hear the music. The plea met with limited success. An all-star cast of musicians, including South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela and American singer R. Kelley, performed. Cast members brought out large placards with the flags of the 32 nations competing in the tournament, holding them high as a final burst of fireworks ended the show. Soccer City, which seats more than 90,000, wasn't yet full at the start of the ceremony. Thousands of fans were stuck in traffic jams on roads leading to the stadium - regaled along the way by groups of dancing, chanting young people in Bafana shirts and by vendors selling the multicolored South African flag. Even the South African team coach was caught up in the traffic chaos - and was almost late for the opening game. The match did not disappoint - South Africa took a surprise lead in the second half thanks to a spectacular goal by Siphiwe Tshabalal, but Mexico levelled things when Rafael Marquez hit the back of the net. The South Africans could have snatched a late winner, but striker Katlego Mphela hit the post. Last night's pre-tournament concert featured a host of international stars including Colombian pop star Shakira and US chart-toppers The Black Eyed Peas.
A worker paints a sculpture
made out of soccer balls at the International Broadcasting Center near the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg June 7, 2010.
A replica of the Jabulani
match ball is seen on the pitch during a test match of youth teams at the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg June 8, 2010.
Cape Town stadium, host to
some of the 2010 Soccer World Cup games, seen with the ocean in background in Cape Town, South Africa, Thursday, May 20, 2010.
Soccer City, also known as
the FNB Stadium, seen in Johannesburg on May 11, 2010. The stadium is set to host both the opening and final soccer matches of the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup.
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