South Africa amped up for World Cup

Posted: June 12, 2010

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - South Africa made like the Big Apple and didn't sleep on Thursday night.

The anticipation for Africa's first World Cup had been evident all week: parades, colors, headlines, billboards and happiness. But on Thursday night, the city reached a crescendo with the FIFA World Cup Kick-Off Celebration Concert. Performing at the concert were the Black Eyed Peas, Alicia Keys, John Legend, and Shakira.

Around 30,000 fans danced for hours.

Outside on the streets, the party continued until morning with vuvuzelas blowing from car windows; it was then that it seemed all of Johannesburg streamed toward Soccer City.

The vuvuzela blowing was hardly stymied by a frightening piece of breaking news from the Sowetan, the local paper, which published a story under the headline, "Vuvuzelas might spread colds, flu." The only questionable part of that headline was the use of the word "might." The doctor within the story also revealed that vuvuzelas "can have negative effects on people's eardrums when they are exposed to the sound for extended periods."

So can the Black Eyed Peas, but that didn't deter anyone from Thursday's concert.

An hour before the start of South Africa's match with Mexico, Soccer City was filled to capacity, save for a few folks out on the concourse drinking beer. The rest were inside the stadium drinking beer.

Just outside Soccer City is a tent stuffed with Adidas gear. You must wait in line to enter and, sadly, you can only pay with Visa. An unknowing patron pulled out an American Express and asked, "Can I pay with American Express?" The cashier responded, "Only if it's a Visa."

At a local grocery store, a packed container of freshly cut fruit - the kind that would cost $11.99 at Whole Foods - was R14, or just over $2. This made it slightly confusing to comprehend the price tags inside the Adidas tent. A long-sleeved white shirt cost R900, or something like $150.

People in Johannesburg raved about a recent print advertisement from restaurant chain Nando's. The ad, filling an entire newspaper page, read: "Dear Mexican Player, most foreigners think S.A. is rife with bribery and corruption. To live up to your misconceptions, we're offering you and your spectators a free lunch if you lose on Friday. Just bring your valid Mexican passport into any Nando's restaurant between 14h00 and 17h00 and we'll give you a delicious flame-grilled quarter chicken and chips each. Free.

"P.S. If you don't have a passport, we're sure someone can arrange one for you."

During Friday's 45-minute opening ceremony, a video board flashed a glimpse of super model Naomi Campbell, disguised behind black sunglasses. Campbell, who apparently considers former South African president Nelson Mandela a "grandfather" figure, was an invited guest of the organizing committee. On the committee's list, Campbell's name was five below U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and two below Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

On a somewhat related note, Campbell once refused to make a scheduled fashion appearance when her "private" elevator inadvertently stopped on a public floor and she was forced to share her space.

In their biggest battle since 1776, the U.S. team will play England on Saturday in Rustenburg, in each team's opening match. According to England's papers, the U.S. consul general in South Africa, Alberta Mayberry, announced to the English that the Americans were "preparing to crush your little boys."


Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at 856-779-3844 or kfagan@phillynews.com.

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