South Africa 2008-11-19 : Upgrades to Orlando Stadium complete

By Michael Appel

Johannesburg - Construction work to upgrade the latest edition to Johannesburg's skyline, Orlando Stadium, has been completed.

The stadium situation in Soweto is to be used as a training venue for nearby flagship stadium, Soccer City during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Acting Executive Mayor of Johannesburg, Nandi Mayathula-Khoza, said on Wednesday: "I am excited to inform you that the City [of Johannesburg] has completed the rebuilding of Orlando Stadium that will be used as one of the training venues for the 2010 FIFA World Cup."

The new facility is the biggest and most sophisticated in the Johannesburg residential area, and despite the obvious use of the stadium, the city also had a vision of what the new stadium would mean to the community.

"When the soccer spectacle has come and gone, there must be something of value that is there for all to see and point at," said Ms Mayathula-Khoza.

Executive Mayor Amos Masondo is expected to mark the historic milestone with an inaugural ceremony on Saturday when three Premier Soccer League [PSL] matches will be played at the stadium.

To celebrate the opening ceremony on Saturday, Orlando Pirates will be going head-to-head with Thanda Royal Zulu, while on Sunday Moroka Swallows will go up against Platinum Stars. Kaiser Chiefs will battle it out with Golden Arrows on 26 November 2008.

The R280 million revamp of the stadium, involved kitting out the multi-functional facility with hospitality facilities that can accommodate 120 suites, conference facilities, a gymnasium, fan shop, offices and security facilities.

The seating capacity has been increased from 24 000 to over 40 000 and the stadium will be now able to cater to cater to both soccer and rugby matches, as well as community gatherings and music concerts.

A total of 25 percent of the budget for the stadium came from Municipal Infrastructure Grants, while 75 percent came from the City of Johannesburg, said Ms Mayathula-Khoza.

"Every passing day brings us another step closer to that much anticipated first whistle that will start the 2010 FIFA World Cup at Soccer City, in the Nasrec Precinct.

"Perhaps it is appropriate to indicate that today it is a mere 568 days before the first ball is kicked. For almost 40 years, the Orlando Stadium was sacred to South African soccer, only to be replaced by the gigantic concrete bowl of FNB [Soccer City] Stadium, now the cathedral of African soccer," she said.

The surrounding communities have benefited from the upgrades too, with well-lit footways from Orlando and Mlamlankunzi stations improving safety and security for commuters and over 2 200 jobs were created with skills in carpentry, bricklaying, plastering and painting being transferred.

The City of Johannesburg hopes that Orlando Stadium will in the future represent a change in Soweto's skyline that will be seen as a reference point for all tourists and soccer lovers.

"The inauguration of this stadium will indeed mark a significant moment in the history and future of soccer," Ms Mayathula-Khoza highlighted.

Executive Director of the city's 2010 unit, Sibongile Mazibuko told reporters that they have been working with the South African Police Service (SAPS), the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) and the city's disaster management unit to ensure that the weekends PSL games are safe, manageable and enjoyable to all.

"We will not be filling the stadium to its capacity of 40 000, but will only be allowing about 30 000 spectators due to the fact that this will be the first test for the stadium," said Ms Mazibuko.

Responding to questions on the role and management of the stadium post-2010, the acting executive mayor explained that a public tender has been put out for a company to manage the stadium independently after the tournament. - BuaNews