nelson_stadium“We are in the year now when we, in South Africa, will host the first World Cup in Africa. Imagine what that does to the morale, the self-esteem of people. When we saw the way the world looked up to Nelson Mandela, we grew two inches. When we see how the World Cup is going to make us gel as a nation, we shall grow more than two inches.”  (Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu to an audience of 500 people near St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, July 2009)

 


South Africa has probably grown another few inches now that the first newly built stadium for the FIFA World Cup has been named in honor of the country’s hero. The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, which opened in 2009 is the first time a world-class football stadium has been built in the Eastern Cape province. Situated in Port Elizabeth in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropole, it is one of three coastal stadiums constructed in anticipation of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.


The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium is located at the heart of Port Elizabeth on South Africa's south-east coastline overlooking the North End Lake.  The stadium that costs about $270 (USD) million to build is set to host 8 games during the 2010 FIFA World Cup tournament.   The five-tier, 48,000-seat stadium will host five first-round matches, one second-round game, one quarter-final, and the third place play-off.  There are 11 elevators, and so far, two huge viewing screens to accommodate the influx of fans as well as the games that will be played here. The stadium will also host large scale football and rugby matches and serve as a concert venue throughout the year.


mandela_stadiumBeautifully situated on North End Lake, the stadium is within 15 minutes of Port Elizabeth’s cultural center, hotels and famous white sandy beaches. Its stunning, unique roof-structure made up of a series of designs that resemble white petals of a flower is the reason for the stadium’s nickname, the Sunflower. The fact that the Nelson Mandela Bay multi-purpose stadium overlooks the North End Lake is a very distinctive feature in and of itself since not many stadiums in the world are situated on a lakefront.  This magnificent structure also boasts 150 VIP suites, 60 business suites, a sports clothing shop, gymnasium, 500 parking bays and lecture and function rooms.


The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium was the first of five new stadiums to start construction for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the biggest construction project. With the requirement that all the FIFA World Cup host stadiums be completed by January 2010, many people were doubtful that the stadium would be complete by deadline.   It was also supposed to be one of the venues for the Confederations Cup, but organizers of this event changed their plans because they feared that the stadium would not be ready in time. To their astonishment, completed in May 2009, not only was the stadium ready in time to have been the venue for the Confederation Cup that summer, but it was also the first of all five of the newly-constructed stadia for the World Cup to be completed. The other new stadiums are in Cape Town, Durban, Polokwane and Nelspruit.

The stadium’s home city of Port Elizabeth, in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropole along with Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and Despatch, has long been recognized for its friendly people, gorgeous stretches of pristine coastline and relaxed atmosphere. It has also been home to some of the country's heroes of the struggle against apartheid and other iconic leaders including Mandela, former president Thabo Mbeki and Steve Biko. Widely known as “The Friendly City,” there was dancing in the streets of Port Elizabeth when the people learned that their city was chosen as one of South Africa’s nine venues for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The historic port city has seen nothing like it since the 1990 release of its most famous son, Nelson Mandela.

 
Everyone in Port Elizabeth, as well as South Africa share the pride of Bishop Tutu about hosting the greatest sporting event in the world.  They have been very active preparing all types of festivities for this great moment in history.  As the eyes of the world are on Cape Town and the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the people in Port Elizabeth as well as the entire Nelson Mandela Bay Metropole have joined all of South Africa in ushering in this unprecedented event.  Various community centers, schools and all types of organizations are gearing up, and area hotels and restaurants are excited about business opportunities as a result 2010 FIFA World Cup events.   In addition to its culture heritage sites and new developments along the beachfront, the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium has helped to seal the future for Port Elizabeth and the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropole as a prime tourist destination.

For more information, visit www.fifa.com/worldcup.

*Photos of stadium courtesy of Nelson Mandela Bay Municipal Government

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