A group of 15-odd people turned around on hearing the gentle tap of a stick on the floor. An old and blind man, helped by his son, was tapping his way towards them. "He's Apheriam; he's with us on the tour," the tour guide announced as he led the group into the stunning Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
Just as the group caught the first glimpse of the stadium from inside, it came to a standstill, soaking in its splendour and architectural mastery. "It's part of our heritage now. I can't see it, but I wanted to have a feel of this place," said Apheriam, who's holidaying here with his family.
The sentiment is as strong in other South Africans. "This stadium and the Football World Cup are proof of our abilities. I have travelled outside Africa a fair bit, and the general impression about our country wasn't too good. People would say, 'Do you have lions strolling in your streets?' All this changed post the World Cup. People now know us for how we organised the World Cup," said Cliff, a middle-aged man from Johannesburg.
Even as the group was listening to the motor-mouth guide, a shrill scream from above caught everyone unawares. A young lady was flying straight down from the arch — that's more than 100m high and runs across the stadium. Just when she was barely 10m from the pitch, she stopped coming down and started sailing to and fro above the pitch.
"That's bungee swing," the guide told the shaken group. And that's not all this stadium offers to the adventure freaks. There's also a facility for sky walking. People walk up the arch to the top, where a breathtaking view of the city as well as of the stadium awaits them. For those not wanting to climb the whole arch, there's a cable car that takes them to the top.
It's a combination of these facilities that has turned this stadium into a highly sought after tourist destination. Besides, the stadium has several eating joints and stores on the outside. "It was built at a cost of 3.1 billion rands, and half the cost has already been recovered," the guide said, bidding goodbye to the visitors.
High time stadiums in India are planned on similar lines.