A proud host to so much of the 2010 World Cup was “Soccer City” the flagship of the national stadia and one of the top five in the world. To stand at pitch-level and look up at the empty seats soaring to the sky is to be aware of the millions who have filled the stadium over its past. To look down at the empty field from above is to be reminded of the historic events that have soaked forever into its roots.
First built in 1987 the FNB stadium regularly resonated with the cheers and excitement of soccer fans. It was the dramatically packed venue for the first rally held by Nelson Mandela after his release in 1990. Later again, thousands of shocked people came to express their grief and take farewell of Chris Hani, after his assassination in 1993. Then it erupted in a different way this year when Vincent Tshabalala scored the first goal of the World Cup before a capacity crowd. So much has happened in the country during these few short years. Part of it has been this new and major step forward which, with the other developments and arrangements for the World Cup, has reminded the nation and the world of the enormous potential that exists within the country.
Designed in the style of an African calabash the stadium has undergone a complete renovation and extension. 65 000 cubic metres of concrete, 7 100 tonnes of structural steel, 105 000 cubic metres of excavation and 45 000 cubic metres of earth fill, 65 000 cubic metres of brickwork, amongst much else, now support three seating tiers and a total of 94 700 seats. There are 128 paraplegic seats with 128 companion seats. 230 private boxes, 184 suites, two VIP suites, one VVIP suite and one super suite cater for those who wish to entertain in a more exclusive fashion. The media section has 2451 seats, in addition to 8 TV presentation studios. 22 000 vehicles can be accommodated, and special facilities for buses and taxis are in place. Metrorail is almost at the entrance. The total cost of all this was R3.4 billion.
Fascinated by the overall capacity I asked Russell Stephens, one of the directors of Stadium Management South Africa, how long it would take to evacuate the stadium in an emergency. His reply of ‘under nine minutes, as required by law’ was surprising and impressive.
I’ve always wondered what the change rooms for the leading athletes would be like – and now I know! What I did not expect was a large warm-up area – with a special floor, padding on the columns and mesh to protect the lights. I should think it might also serve as a place within which to weep at times! The players’ tunnel is designed as a mine shaft taking them out into the gold of the seats and sun. It must be a very moving experience.
Soccer City is not just about soccer, or sport for that matter. The management aims to have regular quality and crowd pulling events, as well as private conferences and functions. National and international sporting and artistic shows are planned. One of these is the forthcoming visit by Neil Diamond.
The Stadium is impressive and very simple to find and reach. Tours can be arranged easily. They are interesting and worthwhile, allowing people to see and appreciate the full scope and scale of the development. Details are on the very informative website. I found it all fascinating.
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