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?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower