Soccer City, the venue that will take centre stage during the World Cup finals in South Africa.
Bob van Bebber is the architect who transformed the exisitng stadium into an arena that reflects a continent.
“We looked for an object that was truly African it’s the calabash, it’s the African pot, the melting pot as I like to call it, because I like the idea of the melting pot, it’s really about people coming together, which is quite relevant to the Johannesburg location because more people come from outside of Johannesburg than were actually born in Johannesburg so it’s a real melting pot, but in the tradition of African beer drinking the beer pot is passed around and everyone takes a sip, so it’s a fully inclusive idea and the idea here is you participate in this experience and the experience here is the football game.
“We had some issues of integrating the new stadium to the old stadium, but eventually that was fine. It could have been said that it would have been easier to start to knock the place flat and start again, but there is so much historical relevance to this stadium… Nelson Mandela’s speech when he came out of prison, Chris Hani was buried from here and Oliver Tambo was buried from here. So the venue has a lot of history to it and to just demolish it and start again was also not paying respects to its relevance.
“With these massive projects the budget is always under stress and we have had to cut, we have had to take things out that we originally thought we were going to get, but we have still managed to deliver a really good value for money stadium.”
“Bob you spoke about the African nature of the basic design of this magnificent stadium-have you got the local community-have you brought them on board to help in the construction of the stadium?”
“The main contractors actually started a school where they trained over 700 previously unemployed labourers they taught them the basic skills of construction, bricklaying, shuttering, concrete mixing and things like that and employed most of them on site so that’s one of the success stories.”
“So what’s this particular area Bob?”
“This is the warm up area”
“Massage area on the left hand side-and of course a particular vanity on that side for hair dryers for the Italians.
“This is how the team comes out and they meet here with the other team that comes out from the other changing room.
“The players tunnel is called the mineshaft its a bit of a reference back to Johannesburg’s gold mining history.”
“So this is when the nerves really begin to jangle.”
“Yes, but I think it really happens when you get closer to the field and the revelation of this massive stadium in front of you, 90,000 vuvuzela’s (a type of horn) going absolutely berserk.”
“The fans do get upset with the referees with the decisions, but they don’t get upset with each other, you know the biggest derby, the Soweto derby, between the Orlando Pirates, Kaiser Chiefs, fans are sitting amongst each other and enjoying the spectacle of the game and not getting into each others faces. So that has not been, from a legacy point of view, a major issue for us. Obviously for a World Cup we have to realise that there has to be crowd separation.
“The message I have is come, come to South Africa buy your vuvuzela. It is going to be fantastic the locals here thoroughly enjoy their football and will welcome you with open arms and come and have an absolute African party.”