US & World

South Africans Trumpet Their World Cup Excitement

A South African welcomes the Chilean national football team's arrival Sunday.
A South African welcomes the Chilean national football team's arrival Sunday.
Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images

South Africa is celebrating the first soccer World Cup to be held on African soil. The opening match between South Africa and Mexico gets under way on Friday at the refurbished Soccer City stadium in Soweto. The number of foreign visitors has not met expectations, but that has not diminished South African enthusiasm for soccer's biggest international event.

The newly refurbished Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg is ready. The airport has spent millions improving facilities in anticipation of some 300,000 visitors. Airport security chief Jason Tshabala says much of the money has been spent to protect visitors and their bags.

The new system is intended to thwart criminal syndicates that make the Johannesburg airport a high-risk airport for losing baggage. A new transport system also is in place, including buses to and from the two area soccer stadiums. A high-speed train from the airport into the city starts on Tuesday.

Some projects won't be finished, despite lots of overtime. Nonetheless, South Africa is ready to party. Cars are bedecked with flags of the 32 countries competing in the tournament. Offices have brought in televisions — a possibly futile attempt to reduce absenteeism over the next month. And people all over the country are practicing new dance steps.

Someone seems to have decided that South Africa needs an official World Cup dance. At an office park northwest of Johannesburg, hundreds of employees turned out for a dance class.

The Diski is apparently based on an old dance simulating people standing in line at a bus stop. The steps have now been changed to simulate soccer. In the office park, the dance students were all ages and races.

A couple of the dancers showed up with a vuvuzela. The long, skinny trumpet is the audio signature of South African soccer. The office park had warned employees to leave the horns at home so as not to scare area wildlife.

There was no such prohibition at Saturday's preliminary soccer game near Johannesburg, between the United States and Australia. As fans waited for the gates to open, young men and boys blowing the vuvuzela danced on the grass.

Once the game was under way, thousands of horns blasted across the stadium.

Medical experts warn that this sound could turn the "Rainbow Nation" into the "Deaf Nation" — especially if South Africa makes it into the second round.