In about 780 days from today, the 2010 FIFA World Cup’s opening whistle will blast for the kick-off of the opening game of the tournament. South Africa will become the stage and the continent, the theatre, for what has to be a world-class event in its organisation and execution.

“Of course, I have absolutely no doubt that we will honour our undertaking to FIFA and the world community of soccer players and lovers to create all the necessary conditions for the holding of the best ever FIFA World Cup tournament,” declared President Thabo Mbeki during his State of the Nation address, early this year.

He added that the sense across all sectors of South African society and further afield was one of ‘business unusual: all hands on deck for 2010!’

But to truly ensure a spectacular worthy of the event is going to require the far more mundane aspects of deploying engineering project- management excellence and lots of it.

By all accounts, the preparations are gaining momentum and are certainly making a significant economic impact on the country.

With stadiums being built, roads and airports being significantly upgraded and a world-class R25-billion high-speed, 80-km rapid-rail transport link between Johannesburg and the country’s capital, Tshwane, under construction, South Africa has become a hive of frenetic activity as it prepares to host Africa’s first FIFA World Cup.

Government has reported that 20 200 jobs have been created on the construction sites of the five new stadiums being built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and has thus far spent R1,2-billion of the budgeted spend of R10,5- billion on the new stadiums, projecting that the major 2010 World Cup-related construction projects will result in 170 000 direct and indirect jobs.

“We must ensure that we sustain this approach. We are fully aware that a critical element of our preparations should be the building of a strong South African team, which will do us, and the whole of the football fraternity, proud. I am certain that the South African Football Association, our coaches, led by Carlos Alberto Parreira, and the players are aware of the heavy responsibility they carry to prepare a national team of which both we and Africa should be proud,” Mbeki averred.


Whether Bafana Bafana will truly make us proud or whether Eskom will get its act together in providing us with an uninterrupted power supply during the event is another debate altogether.

But outgoing 2010 FIFA World Cup communications manager Tumi Makgabo reiterates that, as with any major event in the world, the venues that will be used for the 2010 FIFA World Cup will have sufficient generators to ensure the effective delivery of matches and events, both during the World Cup in 2010, and during the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2009.

“Eskom has advised us that it is working closely with all stakeholders to ensure that the entire country has electricity without failures during the tournament in 2010 and beyond. The government of South Africa has also committed itself to investing in the infrastructure, logistics, communications and security that will be needed to ensure that Africa’s first FIFA World Cup is a resounding success. This includes the provision of [requisite] infrastructure, such as lighting, electricity lines and emergency power supplies,” says Makgabo.

But what is certain is that all eyes of the world are on South Africa and, particularly, on the calabash-styled Soccer City stadium, which will host the opening ceremony and the closing game.

The 2010 soccer World Cup Local Organising Committee (LOC) is said to be pleased with the progress that has been made thus far in pre- paring for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and with the redevelopment of Soccer City stadium, which will be the undoubted icon of the event.

Construction firm Grinaker-LTA was awarded the R1,56-billion contract for the Soccer City stadium upgrade. The company was awarded the contract in joint venture with Interbeton, part of the Royal BAM group, of Holland.


The construction programme is proceeding well and is expected to finish ahead of the October 30, 2009, deadline.

But what is it going to be like on that night of the opening ceremony and that night of the final? To get deep insight into the design and engineering of the stadium for the spectacular, Engineering News turned to Boogertman Urban Edge +Partners architectural director Bob Van Bebber, who has the inside track.

He tells Engineering News that the initial plan was to try to maintain, as much as possible, the existing structure of Soccer City from a cost point of view. But still about 7 070 t of steel, 54 000 m2 of roofing and ceiling membrane and 28 000 m2 of concrete facade cladding are to be used in the upgrade of the stadium.

Soccer City will theoretically be able to accommodate more than 90 000 spectators, but the final seat count will be done later this year as the actual preparations take practical shape.

The initial design was a “simple completing” of the existing seating bowl with a small roof, as the existing structure did not allow a big roof design.

“When we were awarded the 2010 tender in May 2004, a question was raised as to whether the design was iconic enough for the hosting of the first game and the final,” Van Bebber reflects.

The company did some conceptual work and presented the idea to the LOC CEO, Danny Jordaan, who chose the concept of an African pot out of seven designs, since it was most recognisable as an African object and not something built in Tokyo, Berlin or London.

The technology for the seats is fully imported from a new-generation seat designer from the UK. The company has established production plants in Durban, and about 95% of the components for the seats are made in South Africa.

“We discovered that many of the existing seats had restricted view lines and we had to correct the existing western upper seating tier by increasing the angle.”

The existing lower bowl had about 60 rows and it was desirable that it should not have more than 40 rows before a distinct break. Also, the upper third of the lower embankment had poor sight of the field.

It was recommended that the upper third of the lower embankment be raised to create what is now called an upper embankment.

Further detailed studies and surveying of the existing lower embankment revealed that there was subsidence in the ground, and the City of Johannesburg, which has taken over control of the stadium, has approved that the lower embankment be fixed.

The roof structure is separate from the seating bowl and is installed on 12 large concrete shafts, the smallest of which is about 8 m in depth and five storeys high, and will carry the triangular spatial ring truss, which runs all the way around the perimeter of the upper tier. The spatial ring truss, which is triangular in shape, supports the cantilever roof trusses, which are clad with a membrane roof and ceiling.


Van Bebber emphasises that the design driver was that they did not want to see a complex steel structure as it was more about the shape of the pot. The leading edge of the roof is a cantilever polycarbonate section, which provides additional coverage to the front leading edge of the seating, as more and more people sit underneath the roof.

“The cladding to the pot went through various design changes for the material selections. We struggled for a long time to find something that was going to create the idea of a clay pot.

“Initially, we were going to use aluminium and the tenders came back too expensive. By pure chance, we managed to find a product which is an extruded concrete panel, made up of laminated concrete layers and fibre-glass reinforcing,” says Van Bebber

The idea is that the pot will lie in a pit of fire that goes all the way around the stadium.
The notional pattern in the pot relates to the languages across Africa, with the pot being representative not only of South Africa, but of Africa, as a whole.

Another element of the design of the pot is that it has ten slots aimed at all the other stadiums that are part of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

There are only nine other venues and since ‘nine’ symbolises bad luck according to African numerology, the tenth one is aimed at Berlin, the host of the previous final.

“Our intention from a legacy point of view is to inscribe into the concrete the scores of every game that takes place in every stadium. This will be a legacy display of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. If one visits Soccer City as a tourist after the event, one will get glimpses of the scores of the games that took place,” explains Van Bebber.

The existing field will be raised by 300 mm to 400 mm to improve the sightlines and the runoff in the existing moat. All the existing concrete brick paving that was demolished was crushed and used for layer works for the parking areas. All the concrete for the precast concrete seating elements are made on site by the main contractor.


There will be about 187 suites on two levels, with each suite accommodating 32 seats. There will also be a VIP suite, which will have 156 seats, while the VIP hospitality area will have about 1 300 seats on the western side in an area that is separated vertically and horizontally from the general public.

The VIP area is situated above a hospitality area called the Gold Club. Below the Gold Club is the players’ tunnel, which leads from the new players’ changing rooms on the western side underneath the main grandstand to the field.

The players’ tunnel has been designed as a ‘hori- zontal mineshaft’ and will have exposed steelwork, representing Johannesburg’s mining heritage.

There will be two new identical change rooms over and above the existing four change rooms in the existing north-western corner of the grandstand, which will be retained for double-header matches and other events at the stadium.

The western basement area will also have a mixed-media zone, as well as new stadium management offices along with facilities for FIFA and the LOC linked to a dedicated parking basement.


The stadium forms an anchor on the northern edge of the Nasrec precinct, and north of the stadium running east-west is the Soweto highway, which will get a bus rapid-transit (BRT) railway station, to feed spectators to the northern edge of the stadium.

Besides the station on the northern side, a new transportation hub is to be built near the southern edge of the stadium, which will have buses, taxis and a BRT station housed within it. There are about 3 000 parking bays on the southern edge, which forms part of the Expo Centre parking area.


The Expo Centre has been given the contract to host the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) and part of it is the construction of 500 accommodation units, made up of a 170-bed hotel, and the remainder will be part of the housing apartment block, which will be sold off after the World Cup.

Government has made provision for about R1,5-billion for the IBC and other aspects of the country’s information and communication technology infrastructure.

“The biggest challenge that we faced was to deal with the existing structure. We were also trying to compete with stadiums like Wembley with budgets that are a third of what those stadiums cost. We had to be innovative in the way we spent the money. We wanted to leave a legacy of a stadium that is versatile and user-friendly for other events.

“From our point of view as architects, it is a rare opportunity to be involved in something so significant in this country. It has also been a personal journey from when I was at Wits University, when I wanted to design a stadium, and was not allowed to, as my professor said it was too much like engineering. “I disagreed with him and said the stadium of the future would still be driven by architects. We have seen that happening. We are determined to deliver the best possible product within the time and budget constraints,” concludes Van Bebber.


Meanwhile, progress on the tournament as a whole is said to be advancing. The detailed plans of the delivery of various events and activities relating to the tournament are still being finalised.

“However, we want to ensure that all who will be involved in the 2010 FIFA World Cup experience football in this country in the same way that we do, from the music we play to the food we eat and the clothes we wear.

“We believe that there is not that much difference between South Africa and the African continent in the passion we exhibit for football and, thus, we are working with stakeholders, our neighbours and the African Union to determine the best way to demonstrate an African appreciation for the beautiful game,” Makgabo tells Engineering News.

The host cities have been tremendous in the amount of work they have put into the process of preparations and must be lauded for this. Recent FIFA inspection visits to the LOC and some of the venues reinforced the fact that South Africa is indeed on track to deliver a world-class event in 2010.

South Africa has hosted numerous events involving representatives from around the globe. The events have not only been marked as hugely successful in their own right, but have been presented without any major incident.

“We believe that this record speaks for itself, and even though the country has never hosted a FIFA World Cup before, we believe that we will not fail in providing a secure environment for participants and fans alike during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

“The LOC’s responsibility in relation to 2010 security is to provide event-related security and we have no doubt that we will deliver on this. The LOC shares all the concerns of our fellow citizens on the question of crime and government is working to provide solutions to this problem, not only because of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but also beyond the tournament to ensure a better society for all to enjoy.

“We are absolutely confident that this long-held dream will be realised, thanks to the support, encouragement and wonderfully hospitable nature of the South African people,” concludes Makgabo.

PUBLICATION: Engineering News
AUTHOR: Dennis Ndaba
DATED: 25th April 2008