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South Africa worries for stadiums

The stadium in Polokwane, inspired by Africa’s ancient baobab trees, stands idle after its last World Cup match nearly two weeks ago. Now this and other cities wonder: What’s next?

sports Updated: Jul 08, 2010 01:22 IST

The stadium in Polokwane, inspired by Africa’s ancient baobab trees, stands idle after its last World Cup match nearly two weeks ago. Now this and other cities wonder: What’s next?

At Polokwane’s Peter Mokaba Stadium, a handful of security guards and construction workers mill about. Other than that, there is no activity.

Worries about white elephants dog most major sporting events, but in South Africa, Polokwane poses the toughest riddle for the future of its 40,000-seat stadium.

In a town of 500,000 people, four hours’ drive north of Johannesburg, Polokwane sits in the rural northern province of Limpopo that has no professional rugby or football team — and no clear use for its stadium.

“Limpopo doesn’t have many big events,” said one guard, who asked not to be named for fear of losing his job. “But I do wish there would be more in future so we would have jobs.”

“Our purpose is done now. World Cup is over and I guess it goes for this stadium. I am one of the lucky ones. The only reason I am still here is because equipment is still being moved,” he added.

The stadium was built to host just four World Cup matches, which saw the city flooded with visitors for game nights but deserted on the off-days.

South Africa has poured USD 1.5 billion, into 10 stadiums in nine cities, including five built from scratch.

Most of the venues are taking at least small steps toward re-inventing themselves for after the final on Sunday.

Nelspruit, a town near Kruger National Park, is luring the province’s professional football team, the Mpumalanga Black Aces to hold at least some matches on the new field. Port Elizabeth, which has no professional team, reached a deal with rugby’s second division Currie Cup side Mighty Elephants to move into its new stadium. The old rugby stadium is slated for demolition. Most other venues already have resident teams in their stadiums, or are located in major cities like Durban that attract major events.