South Africa : Ellis Park Stadium completed ahead of Confederations Cup

By Ndaba Dlamini

Johannesburg - With five months to go before the first ball in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup is kicked, renovations at Ellis Park, the host stadium of the opening and final matches of this football spectacle, are complete.

Giving an update on the status of the venue to FIFA recently, Sibongile Mazibuko, the executive director in the City of Johannesburg's 2010 unit, said great progress had been made and only the final touches were left.

"The stadium itself is now complete and the sub-contractors will be handing over at the end of the month.

"The pitch and seating have also been completed ... We are excited that this phase is coming to an end and we are happy with the work that has been done," Mr Mazibuko said.

The Confederations Cup - known as the Festival of Champions as it pits the champions of the six FIFA confederations, the reigning world champions and the next FIFA World Cup hosts against each other - will take place from 14 to 28 June, reports

South American champions Brazil, European champions Spain, African champions Egypt, Asian champions Iraq, Concacaf champions the United States, Oceania champions New Zealand, 2006 World Cup champions Italy, and 2010 hosts South Africa will compete.

It will be played at Johannesburg's Ellis Park Stadium, Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, and Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Rustenburg.

Ellis Park will host three opening round matches namely: · · 14 June - South Africa vs Iraq · · 18 June - Italy vs Egypt · · 20 June - Iraq vs New Zealand

The stadium will also host the opening and closing ceremony of the football festival.

Ellis Park has undergone major changes. The west, south and north stands have been revamped with additional seating and a new roof added. New change rooms, VIP, media and medical facilities and a new entrance façade to the north stand have been built.

A new, five-level car park has also been completed and will accommodate 1 200 cars.

The revamped Ellis Park Stadium seats 62 000 football fans, increasing its capacity by almost 9 percent from the previous 57 000.

"All the building work on the stadium is complete. We are now busy with outside paving and putting final touches to the parkade area," said the stadium manager, Paul Appalsamy.

The completion of Ellis Park Stadium sees focus shifting towards sprucing up the area around the stadium ahead of the Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup.

The regeneration falls under the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA), and Nyiko Gudlhuza, the JDA project manager, says work on the Ellis Park precinct is 86 percent complete.

"We expect all work around the stadium to be done by end of March 2009. We have completed paving around the stadium and built two ablution blocks.

"A water feature between Ellis Park Stadium and Johannesburg Stadium is currently being built while landscaping and putting up artwork is complete," Mr Gudlhuza said.

The Olympic-size swimming pool in the sports precinct has also been upgraded, according to Mr Gudlhuza. "However, installation of CCTV cameras will be done early in April." - BuaNews