Not long ago I was fortunate to see some of the finishing touches being put to the magnificent Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
Up close one is left awed by the sheer size of this venue which will comfortably seat 70000 fans during next yearâ€˜s Fifa World Cup.
Viewed from an elevated position in the leafy suburbs of Durban North this aesthetically pleasing structure takes on a different perspective with its iconic arch.
The arch, similar to Wembleyâ€˜s towering â€œTriumphal Archâ€ gives Durbanâ€˜s stadium a special aura.
Because of its arch Wembley has already been dubbed â€œthe big handbagâ€.
Durbanâ€˜s stadium is not a just another boring concrete bowl with plastic seats surrounding a well- manicured soccer pitch.
The architects have managed to make this huge structure pleasing to the eye and when it plays host to its first major match it is sure to create a magical atmosphere for fans and players.
Like Port Elizabethâ€˜s new stadium with its eye-catching bubble roof, Durban has something special that can be appreciated by passersby who may never even set foot inside the venue.
The stadiumâ€˜s 350 metre long free span arch will hold up the stadiumâ€˜s roof and the top of the arch will rise to 106m above the pitch.
There are plans for a cable car that will carry visitors up the middle of the arch to a viewing platform on the north side.
Soccer fans from around the world are bound to be impressed by this venue when it hosts World Cup group matches, a quarter-final and a semi-final next year.
After the World Cup, de-mountable seating will be removed to reduce Durbanâ€˜s capacity to 54000
More importantly, there are plans and allocations to increase the capacity of the stadium to 84000 seats in the future to accommodate major events such as the Summer Olympics. For those who have not seen the new stadium at close quarters it dwarfs the adjacent Absa Stadium, the home of the Sharks, which is virtually a stoneâ€˜s throw away.
And it should be said the â€œShark Tankâ€ is no baby itself and is capable of seating 50000 fans on major occasions such Test, Super 14 and Currie Cup matches.
Named after Moses Mabhida, a former General Secretary of the South African Communist Party and hero of the working classes, Durbanâ€˜s new stadium is intended to be multi-purpose.
From the moment I set eyes on this massive structure I could not help but think that this state-of- the-art structure was built for an Olympic Games. Itâ€˜s no surprise that the Olympic Games in Durban in 2020 is already being touted as a possibility.
But those who are keen to promote Durbanâ€˜s chances of Olympic glory must first deliver the goods in 2010 when the stadium is unveiled to a global audience.
If that can be achieved the Moses Mabhida Stadium is set to enjoy many more days basking in the world spotlight.
Soccer City has already been dubbed the â€œcalabashâ€ but the â€œhandbagâ€ seems way too drab to describe Durbanâ€˜s masterpiece.
When the arch is colourfully lit it could easily become known as the â€œRainbow Arenaâ€.
That would be a fitting tribute to a stadium which proudly bears the name of someone as heroic as Moses Mabhida.
PUBLICATION: The Weekend Post Online
AUTHOR: Sports Talk, with George Byron
DATED: 26th May 2009