Ceremony sparkles despite Mandela absence

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The World Cup kicked off today with a breathtaking visual spectacular at the opening ceremony in South Africa.

Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium rang out to the sound of music and cheering as the 19th edition of the Fifa tournament roared into life.



The one notable absentee was the country's former president Nelson Mandela, who pulled out following the death of his 13-year-old great-granddaughter Zenani in a car crash.

Mr Mandela's former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, was taken to hospital to be treated for shock on hearing the news of the car crash.



But his absence did not stop the 1,581 artists enthralling the crowd - at least half of whom missed out on the colourful proceedings by arriving late at the 85,000-capacity venue.



After an aerial display by the South African air force, a group of drummers and dancers performed a Welcome to Africa song that included an introduction to all 10 of the tournament's venues.



The next sequence saw a gigantic beetle show off its football skills with the Jabulani - the official football of the finals - before large pieces of cloth were used to show a map of the continent and then the world.



A smoking calabash, depicting the stadium design, represented another side of Africa, and the colour and splendour drew even more roars from the slowly filling stadium.



Musicians and artists from the other African finalist countries - Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria - also had their chance to perform in a joint sequence.



Multiple Grammy Award-winning R&B star R Kelly then sang the ceremony's showpiece song, Sign Of A Victory, with South Africa's Soweto Spiritual Singers.



The opening concluded with a display of flags from the 176 competing member associations that failed to qualify, surrounding those that did, with voices of children sounding out the names of all the 32 qualifiers and then uniting to form a human version of the official tournament logo.



United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, Mexican president Felipe Calderon, Prince Albert of Monaco and United States vice-president Joe Biden were all expected to attend, while Archbishop Desmond Tutu and president Jacob Zuma were among those spotted.



Locals believe their team, known as Bafana Bafana, can lift the trophy.



Video: Concert kicks off World Cup



The team have never progressed beyond the group stage but they will be cheered on by a nation in the grip of football fever.



Many believe the vuvuzela, the plastic trumpets which make a noise like a herd of charging elephants, will be their secret weapon.



Thousands of travelling England supporters have made their way to South Africa, although many have stayed away because of the high cost of flights and accommodation and fears over safety.



Back home, hundreds of people flocked to Trafalgar Square in London for a day-long event to celebrate the start of the tournament.



Mayor of London Boris Johnson hosted the party, where he was to be joined by South African High Commissioner Dr Zola Skweyiya.



A performance by award-winning South African lyric soprano Pumeza Matshikiza, mass flag-waving and a selection of South African food were also on the bill.



Mr Johnson said: "Throughout the world, anticipation and excitement are reaching fever pitch as the master exponents of the beautiful game come together in thrilling competition.



"So, vuvuzelas at the ready - here's to South Africa and a glorious World Cup."



Nearly four million fans will flock to the pub to watch the match, according to a ComRes poll commissioned by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA).



The poll predicted a £35 million sales boost from the game with an extra nine million pints of beer sold.



After a highly successful qualifying campaign under manager Fabio Capello there are high hopes the England team could end 44 years of hurt and lift the trophy for the first time since 1966.



But warm-up matches against Mexico and Japan proved less than inspiring and captain Rio Ferdinand will sit out the tournament after sustaining an injury in his first training session in South Africa.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?