The world is at play in South Africa

Fans raise scarves and wave flags during the opening concert for the 2010 World Cup. (REUTERS/Radu...

Fans raise scarves and wave flags during the opening concert for the 2010 World Cup. (REUTERS/Radu Sigheti)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, London Free Press

, Last Updated: 10:07 PM ET

Johannesburg — It is a riot of colour, celebration and noise.

South Africa has been a country in preparation of what it hopes is a month-long party. Its fingers are crossed that nothing as inconsiderate as crime, poor infrastructure or poverty crash the party.

The party begins Friday when the 2010 World Cup kicks off in a country no one ever believed would see a World Cup.

Many local columnists suggest the last time South Africa partied this hard was 27 years ago when Nelson Mandela was released from prison.

Now that it’s here and the world has arrived in this country of contrasts, there is no disguising the party has begun.

Oh, to have the flag concession for this place! Whether palace or shack, South African flags are everywhere alongside flags of team favourites. Shopping malls, trattorias and sidewalks are a catwalk of team jerseys.

The Dutch orange mingles with the most populous sombrero wearing Mexican supporters.

Between Mexican and Nigerian fans, green pretty much dominates.

Then there’s the vuvuzela, the plastic horns that sound throughout the city constantly, giving one the impression that a swarm of killer bees is about to descend upon you.

It’s a very different sound than the sound made by South African drivers blasting their car horns at anything that moves and that includes the multitude of vendors who hawk their wares at most major intersections.

The World Cup has poured millions into the country’s infrastructure. South Africa has been preparing for six years and only needs another year or so for the process to be complete. Unfortunately, the tournament begins today.

A wonderful new Gautrain (subway) opened to the public days ago. But computers where commuters could buy tickets crashed Thursday causing long lineups.

Improved roads that were supposed to ease traffic are a little behind schedule so instead of helping traffic, the construction bottlenecks it.

Everything takes more time in this country.

A magnificent main stadium is built among the open scars and pits left by gold mining.

But this is a country that overcomes.

None of this seems to bother the locals or the fans. Wednesday residents of Johannesburg were asked to all blow their vuvuzela’s at the same time and they did.

The cheering for the Bafana Bafana, the name of the home team, is on everyone’s lips.

Groups of locals stand on street corners or along highways waving their flags and cheering for nothing in particular except for the fact the World Cup is here.

This is a chance for this country to change its image in the world and to solve some of is problems.

Only time will tell whether South Africans overcome again.

They have a month to do it. Judging by the how this thing has started, they’re going to do everything they can to do just that or die partying.


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