Into its 19th edition, the importance of the World Cup draw reamins constant. The ceremony around it though has undergone a sea change.
What once had then FIFA president Jules Rimet letting his grandson picking lots (France, 1938) has become a television show that took one year to ready and will be hosted on a set structure that needed 6.5 million tons of steel.
Next Friday’s show will go live to 200 countries and, according to Cape Town city spokesman Pietr Cronje, should exceed the audience of 130 million that saw the draw when Germany hosted the finals in 2006. There will also be a red carpet, like the Oscar awards presentation, where coaches and delegates will be quizzed.
And because this is South Africa, security services will be the largest single contributor at 1587.
In a way, the extravaganza around putting the flesh and bones to what till now has only blank boxes encapsulates how the World Cup has evolved. From being a concept shunned by England and once even ignored by India (1950 when apparently a combination of lack of funds and the insistence on playing barefeet led to the invitation being spurned), it is now an event the world would give an arm and a leg to be part of.
The history of the World Cup placed in the context of world events will be an important part of the show. A sneak preview shown to the media on Thursday had an old African man explaining to his grandson the story of the World Cup through pages of a scrapbook. A black and white picture of Mahatma Gandhi is prominent on the top of the first page which talks about the 1930 finals in Uruguay.
As part of a celebration of Africa, an animation film where animals are having a ball, literally, will also be shown. Holding the 2010 finals backdrop will be baobab trees, its trunks lit red.
The arena looks like an aircraft hanger with black being the overriding colour. Over 2000 delegates are expected, South Africa president Jacob Zuma and FIFA boss Sepp Blatter included.
Diego Maradona though is unlikely to be there, a FIFA media representative told HT. Apparently even before he was barred from football activities by FIFA for obscenity at a post-match press conference, the Argentine FA had written saying their head coach wouldn't be attending.
The list of stars, football and beyond, will be released on Monday, FIFA representative David Aussel said. The nitty gritty of the draw too would be made public only on Wednesday after a FIFA executive committee meeting. Except Europe though two countries of the same confederation won’t be placed in the same group.