Cape Town hoopla kicks off with World Cup concert and fan festival

On the eve of World Cup 2010 in South Africa, thousands of fans clad in all colors converged for a concert in front of Cape Town City Hall, filling the air with the din of vuvuzelas and honking horns.

Hassan Ammar/AP
South African soccer fans pose for pictures during the opening concert for the World Cup at Orlando stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa, on Thursday.

Known as the "Mother City" of the nation, Cape Town claimed its share of the pre-World Cup attention on Thursday with a fan festival attended by thousands.

Long left in the shadow of Johannesburg's Soccer City and the hoopla surrounding its World Cup opening match, people might almost have forgotten there was second game on Friday's opening day.

France plays Uruguay in a clash of former World Cup winners and seven more games will be staged at the stunning Green Point Stadium on the coast, culminating with the July 6 semifinal.

IN PICTURES: Ready for the World Cup

On the eve of the match, thousands of fans clad in all colors converged for a concert in front of city hall, filling the air with the din of vuvuzelas and honking horns.

For once, there were no clouds hanging over Table Mountain, with its outlines cut clear against an azure sky and above the city and ivory-colored Green Point Stadium below.

Yet amid all the enthusiasm and beauty, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille sounded a warning to Capetonians on Thursday.

"The end of this tournament is going to leave one hell of a hangover," she told the Cape Argus newspaper. "There is going to be grave disappointment by many — about fewer visitors than expected."

On Wednesday night, two says before the kickoff, the V&A waterfront district looked eerily empty with most restaurant tables waiting in vain for visitors.

Taxi drivers said they were surprised by the empty roads, and cafes were debating whether there was enough demand to open the kitchen late into the evening.

At midday Thursday by the waterfront, tables and chairs were set out on the verandahs of restaurants, but they were mainly empty. It contrasted sharply with the scenes in December during the final draw of the World Cup, when the same area thronged with people enjoying high summer in the Mother City.

Most, though, had flocked to the center of town where there was plenty of fun to be had below the city hall balcony, where previously former President Nelson Mandela had given his first speech after his release from years of imprisonment.

The party kicked off with local artists belting out such anti-apartheid songs as Eddy Grant's "Give me hope Jo'Anna."

And there was plenty of hope that, despite Zille's dire prediction, the fever of Thursday's fan festival would increasingly spread over the next month, for the good of the city.

"The influx will be exponential from now on," said Andre Oaker, a 31-year-old Capetonian, as people from the age of 7 to 77 blew vuvuzelas in the background. "We always wake up a bit late here, and this party will get crazier and crazier as the month gets on."

IN PICTURES: Ready for the World Cup


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