Last Saturday morning (15 May) dawned bright and beautiful. I had heard somewhere that the Visitor Centre at the Green Point Stadium – sorry, that should be the Cape Town Stadium, which is its official name – was running its last series of tours, at 10h00, 12h00 and 14h00 that day. The next week, the new stadium would be handed over to the FIFA 2010 Local Organising Committee so that they could make their final preparations (see here).
We got up too late to make it to the 10h00 tour, but we had plenty of time to make the 12h00 tour.
So, let’s go!
The new Integrated Rapid Transit network
The need to transport large numbers of people quickly and safely from all areas of the city to the stadium, and back home again, has transformed Cape Town’s streets. As a result, Capetonians have been confronted with extensive roadworks (and their associated traffic jams at all hours of the day) on almost all the major routes in and out of the city. But the promise is that we will end up with a worldclass public transport network (the so-called Integrated Rapid Transit network or IRT), so we’re putting up with the interminable delays and frequent detours.
We have never had a good, reliable and safe bus or train network, so the City of Cape Town has spent – and will be spending – a great deal of our money to build the necessary infrastructure. There will be a combination of trunk routes and feeder routes, with articulated 18m vehicles on the trunk routes, and shorter 8.8m buses on the feeder routes. And plenty of safe pavements and crossings for pedestrians, as well as safe, spacious, and well-lit cycle zones for cyclists. Sounds great to me!
Phase 1 involves the construction of an IRT route from the CT International Airport to the City Centre and from the City Centre to the Green Point Stadium; at the same time, another IRT route is being constructed from the City Centre northwards along the coastal route past Milnerton, Table View, Blouberg Strand (you can find their informative pamphlet here and an update here).
We are promised security personnel at the various IRT stations, CCTV on board the new buses and at the stations, monitoring of drivers and vehicle tracking to ensure that there is no speeding or reckless driving, and a smart card system so that you can change from one route to another. The objective is to encourage drivers of private vehicles to leave their cars at home and hop on the new buses instead. – Oh, and we’re promised that it’ll be affordable, with comparable rates as currently charged by the other operators. Unfortunately, the creation of these new IRT routes is annoying the bus and minibus taxi industry no end, which has resulted in strike actions and violent protests. We’re not quite sure how that’s going to be sorted out yet.
Approaching the Stadium
Enough of that, back to the Stadium, whose massive bulk was now looooooming up next to us.
“The Cape Town Stadium has a graceful, clean and sweeping silhouette. The translucent fabric mesh around the stadium exterior softens the structural elements and when lit up at night, the stadium bowl will appear to float on its base. For the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the stadium will have 68,000 seats, but 13,000 will be removed after the event.” (Pamphlet from Visitor Centre)
Apparently the structure has been designed in such a way that it can withstand strong winds, including the South Easter, which commonly blows across the Cape Peninsula during the summer months. It is also designed to keep the noise levels outside the stadium as low as possible, which should offer some comfort to the many people living in this upmarket neighbourhood!
In Granger Bay Boulevard, a signpost directed us to one of the few parking areas around the stadium. There are only 1,170 parking bays in the basement of the stadium, which won’t be nearly enough. Apart from that, the streets of Green Point and Sea Point are already busy and congested, so visitors are being urged to use public transport. (And because we didn’t have any public transport to speak of, the IRT is being constructed.)
We obediently turned into Fritz Sonnenberg Road and found parking outside the stadium.
I think this is supposed to be the North Entrance? (It feels to me like it should be the South Entrance, as it’s a bit disorienting.)
We’re not allowed to use cameras???!!!
We headed north (or what I thought was north, towards the sun) along the new paved walkway, which is lined by old bluegums along the one side, until we reached the South (?) Entrance off Granger Bay Boulevard, or more specifically, Gate 18.
Have a closer look at the prohibited items:
In case you, like I, are struggling to figure out the symbols for the different items, I shall list them for you in rows. Here goes:
No guns, no knives, no spears or shields (I think that means no traditional weapons?), no fighter jets? Or darts? (huh? or are those rockets?), no umbrellas (and if it’s raining?), no cameras…
Wait, what was that?
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
People fork out hundreds, if not thousands, for tickets to a once-in-a-lifetime event at the largest stadium ever built in Cape Town, and they ain’t allowed to take photographs? People willingly pay thousands of Rands to travel to the southernmost tip of Africa to attend the largest soccer tournament ever held on this continent, and they’re not allowed to take photographs?
Can you imagine a capacity crowd of 68,000 people, many of them visitors from overseas, arriving at the stadium on the day and being ordered to hand over their expensive and irreplaceable cameras “for safekeeping”? Yeah, right. Quite frankly, I foresee a riot.
I’m sorry, but whatever moronic twit came up with that prohibition should be fired on the spot. Seriously. (Unfortunately, I believe it may be FIFA themselves who insisted on this idiotic clampdown. And they can’t be fired. Well, not right now, anyway.)
No fire-crackers, no aerosol sprays (no deodorants? eish…, let’s hope that doesn’t extend to the players on the field), no cigarettes, no syringes, no tazers or zappers, no video cameras…
No VIDEO cameras either? Man, that’s just ludicrous.
No bottles (presumably this is to prevent projectiles being thrown at whichever team has missed yet another chance of scoring a goal), no dogs, no flags (? Hey? We aren’t allowed to wave the national flag of the team we support? Not even a teeny-tiny flag?), no … (um… what’s that? A feather duster? An electric toothbrush?), no chemical experiments (eh?), no ghetto blasters (well, with the constant ear-splitting trumpeting of about 68,000 vuvuzelas on all sides, you wouldn’t be able to hear any other music anyway, never mind any commentary from the field).
No fireworks? Projectiles? Rocket-propelled grenades? What is that? No wine glasses (hey, and what about the VIPs? I bet they’re getting wined-and-dined with proper wine bottles and wine glasses! No fair!), no soccer balls (well, except for the one on the pitch, I guess, and a couple of spares, I would hope), no helmets, and … er.. no… What is that symbol? Loud volumes? A hearing aid? I’m stumped. – AHHH! I think it’s a loud-hailer!
I have to sit down for a moment to recover from the shock that cameras of all kinds are strictly prohibited inside the stadium.
“Fort Wynyard, a centrally-located and valuable heritage site, is currently under the control of the Cape Garrison Artillery. It was built in 1861 by convicts from the nearby Breakwater Prison (now UCT Graduate School of Business), although the site was first used for coastal defences by the Dutch in 1795. It makes sense to consider upgrading and opening this facility to the public to make it part of the overall Green Point Common experience. At the moment, grumpy army guards do their best to keep one away from the site.” (from Andrew Boraine’s website)
I had read somewhere on the internet that a museum was housed here at some stage, but it seems that it is no longer open. I’d love to see it when it does open!
The Visitor Centre
By following the trickle of other early-comers (or late-comers to the previous tour), we easily found the Visitor Centre, where we were told that the tickets for the 12h00 tour could only be purchased at 11h30 on a first-come, first-served basis. No reservations were possible.
Restless and quickly bored with waiting, we ambled in through an open gate, and managed to sneak in a photo, before security booted us out. 🙂
Clever hubby even took a very nice panorama shot!
After we had been ushered out into the open air again (blush!), we waited more or less (im)patiently in the visitor centre, where a straggly queue began to form.
In the visitor centre stood this scale model of the stadium in a glass case. It was tricky to get a clear shot, because so many curious people were clustering around it; particularly the kids thought it was really neat!
To read about the Tour, please click here for Part II.