Finally, after waiting in the Visitor Centre for a while, 12h00 came around. Clutching our little ticket stubs (they had run out of the wristbands they’d been using so far – Darn! I wanted one of those!), we joined the large and excited crowd that pushed and shoved its way through the narrow gate.
We were separated into groups of about 25-30 people each, and assigned a guide and a First Aid man in bright orange gear.
A quick history of the Stadium
Our guide explained some of the history of the stadium. Costing R4,4 billion (way more than originally anticipated), the joint contractors Murray & Roberts and WBHO managed to build it in a mere 33 months.
Since the official hand-over of the Cape Town Stadium to the City of Cape Town on 14 December 2009, there have been four test events held at the stadium.
- 23 January 2010 – A football match between Ajax Cape Town and Santos, for which only 20,000 tickets were made available – and all of them were sold!
- 06 February 2010 – A rugby match between the Vodacom Stormers and the Boland Cavaliers, attended by 40,000 spectators.
- 22 March 2010 – A religious gathering called “Cape Town For Jesus”, attended by 52,000 people.
- 10 April 2010 – Two soccer matches, part of the International Under-20 Soccer Challenge, between South Africa and Nigeria, and Ghana and Brazil, attended by 40,000 spectators. (Wikipedia)
We had entered on Level 2, which circles the entire stadium. Clustered around the circumference were kiosks, still empty at the moment, but to be populated for the duration of the 2010 World Cup. There will be about 19 of these kiosks. In front of them were sets of metal railings to encourage people to queue properly instead of shoving and pushing.
The high-tech roof
We followed our guide around to the left, until she stopped at the top of a flight of steps, leading down between the rows of seats. She pointed to the roof, and spoke a little about its amazingly high-tech construction.
“The construction of a very high-tech roof provides protection from the weather and reduces noise coming out of the stadium. This ‘double membrane’ roof is curved to give the stadium a smooth, flowing look from every angle, and it makes full use of natural light. The area above the pitch is open, but spectators are under cover. Weighing 4195 tons, the roof is made up of 9000 laminated glass panels that allow in the natural light but also contain the noise.” (Pamphlet from Visitor Centre)
The roof cannot be extended across the entire pitch to create an enclosed space, as I had originally thought. Nonetheless, it is supposed to shield spectators from the rain – though I’m pretty sure you’re going to get wet if it rains (this is normal for the Cape Town winter, which happens to overlap with the World Cup).
“Like a wheel with a rim and spokes, the roof is made up of an outer ‘compression ring’ that rests on 72 columns, and links to the inner ‘tension ring’ with a system of trusses and cables.
The inner tension ring also houses the lights for the playing field in a ‘ring of fire’, which removes the need for traditional high-mast lighting, and keeps the roof profile clear. Maintenance staff can work inside the roof structure.
The top layer of the roof is made of approximately 9000 16mm thick laminated safety glass panels, while below the radial truss structure is a mesh fabric that mutes noise and conceals the acoustic and lighting systems.” (from this pamphlet)
In the photo below, you can see the rows of black seats on the far side of the pitch: these will only be there for the duration of the tournament; after that, they will be removed and the space converted into studios.
This was our friendly and knowledgeable guide. In the centre of the picture, on the far side, you can see the tunnel, from which the players will emerge at the start of the match.
There were still lots of construction workers all around the stadium.
These are the seats with desks to be used by the press and the media. I wonder whether they will be allowed to use cameras?
The police station (or “tjoekie”)
We followed our guide through a set of doors and down a flight of steps to Level 1 (basement or street level). Here, we were taken through another door on the right, down a dark and narrow passage, and into the police station. It was furnished and fitted out like a typical police station in South Africa. Strange, how it immediately felt like an intimidating space, even though we hadn’t done anything wrong!
A small passage led off to the side towards three cells: one for men, one for women, and one for juveniles. When we asked whether they had already been used during the test events that had been held here, our guide smiled and nodded. There is extensive CCTV surveillance of the entire stadium, and the security guards have been thoroughly trained not to put up with any misbehaviour.
It was hilarious to see how everyone pushed their way into the cells to pose for photographs!
We left the police station and came to a large open area in front of these large glass windows and doors. This is the foyer for the VIP’s, all shiny and glittery with the lights from the ceiling reflecting back from the clean and polished floor. Unfortunately it’s rather blurry because I couldn’t use a tripod and we were being chivvied very quickly through the doors. No dawdling!
We were shown to one of the dressing rooms, belonging to Team B. Apparently, there are four changing rooms, including showers, covering a total area of 96 square metres.
There’s a large changing room with comfortable seats, shelves and lockable safes. The showers can accommodate up to 10 people. There’s a room with massage tables in case your muscles are aching. Our guide pointed out two foot basins, which players have to step into with their shoes in order to disinfect them – in case the soles of their shoes contain germs (?) that damage or kill the special rye grass on the pitch.
Towards the end of the passage is a 10×5 m2 warm-up room, with a netted ceiling to protect the lights above from flying soccer balls.
Finally, we emerged from the darkness of the tunnel into the bright sunshine of the pitch. A friendly man, who had noticed us taking photos of each other, offered to take a photo of the two of us. Thank you! 🙂
Next to the pitch
At last, we were standing on the track surrounding the pitch. It felt strangely rubbery and bouncy under our feet, inviting us to break into a slow and steady warm-up jog.
Our guide explained that the special seeds for this grass (rye grass?) had been imported from Denmark (?really?), and that it had only been planted in December last year. It’s really grown astoundingly well since then!
She emphasised several times that we were not allowed on the grass, in case our shoes contaminated it. Oooh, it was so tempting to run and leap and bound across this vast green expanse!
Clearly, such an almost irresistible urge to defy the rules has been recognised by the authorities in charge of the stadium: Those pesky “Keep off the grass” signs were dotted about everywhere.
Two large-screen monitors are mounted up above the spectators; live action and replays will be shown on these. When I asked the guide whether two screens would be sufficient for a fully packed stadium, and whether they would be visible from all the seats, she said that they definitely were because the design was so clever. 🙂
Although the screens do look fairly large, and probably are large enough if you are close-up, from down here they looked disappointingly small. But then, Harry Potter fans like me have been spoiled by the design of the stadium for the Quidditch World Cup, and nothing else can come close to that!
The workers were having a little bit of a lunchbreak.
A panorama shot from ground level.
Curving rows of seats
Suddenly, I realised that we had lost our group! Somehow, we had dithered and dawdled so long next to the pitch, that we’d missed their departure. Ah well, it’s not like we could get lost here. No need to panic or rush. So we calmly made our way up the next set of steps to Level 2, and admired the sweep of the seats.
And the other way. Awesome, hey?
A final look down the steps.
As we strolled back to the entrance near the visitor centre, we noticed these square holes in the pitch. This must be where the goal posts will be anchored! I wonder when they are going to put them in?
These bright red seats underneath each staircase are meant for emergency personnel. In an emergency, the stadium can be evacuated in… um… was it 12 minutes? 15 minutes? Something like that. At least that’s what our guide said. But two elderly ladies in our group, with whom I chatted, felt that this was unrealistic and overly ambitious. I wonder whether the operating company has tested this?
The stadium is divided into red, yellow, green and blue zones, all similarly marked. Have a look here at one of the layout maps. The yellow circle with the black ring marks the “You are here” spot. It also marked the starting and ending point of our tour.
This is one of the other entrances.
This is one of the markers of the red zone. The number below refers to the block number.
A final look at the pitch, with part of the roof reflected in a puddle of water. I was trying to be artistic. 🙂
The end of the tour
As we returned to our car, I noticed this huge group of black-clad security personnel. They appeared to be listening attentively to instructions. Perhaps it was part of a training exercise to prepare them for the imminent arrival of thousands of fans in the Green Point area!
The official book
It may interest you to know that a book has been written about the whole process of building the stadium, from the early days where it was still being questioned whether a new stadium was necessary, through the months where its location was being fiercely debated and contested, via all the difficulties encountered before construction finally began, and all the way to the present day.
It is called Cape Town Stadium: Between the Lines.
Title: Cape Town Stadium – Between The Lines
Published by Griffel Media, Cape Town
Contact them to order a copy
Tel: + 27 (0)21 465 0025