Soccer, rugby and mass prayers will be staged at Cape Town’s R4-billion 2010 stadium as part of dress rehearsals early next year in final preparation for the World Cup.

Three “dry-run” events are planned, where every conceivable operation at the state-of-the-art venue will be minutely examined and fine-tuned.

The first event, a soccer match, will permit only 20 000 spectators – filling only one of the stadium’s seven levels.

The Cape Argus has learned that, despite the Western Province Rugby Union’s refusal to move to the new Green Point edifice, the new 2010 stadium is still likely to host a high-profile rugby match before the World Cup kick-off on June 11.

The rugby match will admit 40 000 spectators – or almost two full levels.

The pitch is, however, a key inhibiting factor during the dry-runs. The grass is to be laid this month, in time for the stadium’s official completion on December 14, but cannot be damaged prior to the World Cup, which is 247 days away.

The city and the Sail Group, part of the consortium which is to manage the stadium, are trying to hold a mass event which will fill the stadium but be gentle on the turf – so are considering a cultural or religious event.

It is hoped that the final full dress rehearsal will be a mass prayer gathering. It will aim to fill the stadium to capacity.

This will be the final chance to test access and egress routes for the 68 000-strong crowd – as well as everything else from the public address system and lights to turn-styles and barcode scanners.

“We’ll also be closely monitoring the public transport routes for possible bottlenecks,” City of Cape Town spokesman Pieter Cronje explained.

“The Cape didn’t host the Confederations Cup. But we attended the matches and attended the formal debriefing sessions – from which the city had learned.”

The city’s 2010 director of operations, Lesley de Reuck, said January would also see the start of a series of simulated safety and security exercises to try out the stadium’s protection systems.

The first of these was carried out last year when the “no-fly zone” above the stadium was tested. At the time, pilots were able to breach the system and fly a light aircraft to the stadium site, but security measures have since been tightened.

The dress rehearsals will employ the full emergency crew – a small army made up of 2 800 security stewards, plus traffic, fire and medical emergency officers, rapid-response police teams and disaster management crews.

“We want to make sure that (through) progressively ramping up the spectator numbers, everything works the way it should. By the time we hand over the stadium to Fifa in May everything must be shipshape,” Cronje said.

All preparations are being conducted by the City of Cape Town together with Sail and Stade de France, the managing consortium.

Sail’s Morne du Plessis could not divulge details yet about the rugby match, other than: “We are working really hard trying to finalise details. The three events will be in January, February and March – we can’t risk the pitch any later than that.

“We are working with lots of rugby bodies and everybody’s being as accommodating as they can.”

He confirmed that Springbok rugby had to be played at the country’s five home unions, in other words, in the Western Cape only at Newlands.

The 2010 fever begins in earnest on December 4, when the final draw will be held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

AUTHOR: Murray Williams
DATED: 6th October 2009