Coca Cola Park ready to host thousands of football fans

By Proffesor Ndawonde

Johannesburg - All the infrastructure changes and upgrades at Coca Cola Park Stadium in Johannesburg will be complete by Monday and the state-of-the art facility is standing tall in readiness to host thousands of football fans in less than two weeks.

"By Monday next week, the innovations at the stadium will be completed and it will be ready to accommodate the thousands of people who will be attending the FIFA Confederations Cup," said Project Division Manager Zack Sejaphala during an exclusive tour by BuaNews of the stadium.

He said once all the work was completed, the stadium will be officially handed over to FIFA and the Local Organising Committee (LOC).

On 14 June, hosts South Africa will lock horns with Asian Champions, Iraq, in a Group A match. More than 64 000 people are expected to attend the clash and the stadium will also host an opening ceremony on the same day.

Situated in Johannesburg central, Coca Cola Park has been transformed into a world class showpiece - from the pristine beauty of the green grass on the playing field to the dressing rooms that boast jacuzzis and massage areas.

Mr Sejaphala said FIFA had been impressed by the extended and modern change rooms which will accommodate soccer stars like Kaka and Torres.

For the first time in its history, the stadium will have a paraplegic seating section which will cater for people with disabilities from the corner of the south stand to the north stand. There is also a disability suite to house disabled dignitaries.

Mr Sejaphala said FIFA had wanted to ensure that people with disabilities enjoyed the game with the rest of the crowd, rather than being seated behind the teams' bench.

The 61 400-seat stadium also boasts a gigantic stage at the north stand, not far from the newly built legacy tunnel, where artists will carry out their performances before and after games.

The stadium will accommodate more than 1 200 media officials, with two FIFA mixed-media zones having been completed with the broadcast compound being erected beneath the presidential suit.

The sporting big-wigs attending matches will be dazzled by the renovations to the VIP section at the west stand of the stadium and the top-notch presidential suits which have been expanded to accommodate more guests. About 150 seats covered in red suede have been built next to the suit.

As required by FIFA, President Jacob Zuma will be seated between FIFA President Sepp Blatter and the stadium Chief Executive Officer Paul Appalsamy in the front row of the presidential suit when the first whistle blows on 14 June, according to Mr Sejaphala.

The 15 meter prize-giving platform, situated below the presidential suit, has been completed and this is where the FIFA Confederations Cup winning team will collect the prize and lift the trophy for all the world to see. The final match will be played at this venue.

Mr Sejaphala said the changes that had taken place as per FIFA requirements were 99 percent complete. "Construction workers, project managers and LOC-appointed renovators are working day and night and everything is smoothly proceeding according to FIFA requirements."

The old sports shop has been renovated and turned into a temporary office for FIFA officials and the conference centre has been renovated and extended to accommodate 1 200 people and will serve as a media conference centre.

He said the nearby Johannesburg Stadium will be used as a FIFA hospitality centre, where the officials and dignitaries will have lunch and supper.

Thulani Zitha, a 54-year-old construction worker, told BuaNews that it had been "cool" to work at the stadium which would host the opening and closing matches for the Confederations Cup.

He said he was excited that he had made an input into the preparations for the tournament. - BuaNews