With the recent opening of the refurbished Orlando Stadium, not only has the skyline of Soweto changed, but the City of Johannesburg has demonstrated one of the first key 2010 milestones.

Once known as "Esikamaminzela", the home of township soccer, Orlando Stadium, refurbished at a cost of R280-million, was packed with thousands of soccer fans to witness that grand old lady of South African football rise again to host the country's biggest teams.

It is earmarked as one of the training venues for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, together with Dobsonville Stadium, also in Soweto, and Rand Stadium in the south of Johannesburg.

Executive Mayor of Johannesburg, Amos Masondo, officially opened Orlando Stadium by unveiling a plaque at its main entrance. "Our theme for today, Joburg does it again, Mintirho ya vula vula, sekuya ngamagama enkehli, reflects the work done thus far. What we see today is one of the first key 2010 milestones. We have transformed the 'old lady', Orlando Stadium, into a fully FIFA compliant, world-class stadium."

History

On 3 May 2006 - a day after Orlando Stadium celebrated its 47th anniversary - Masondo had said that the City made a commitment that when the stadium turned 50, it "will be transformed and made to feel and look like a 16-year-old".

Recounting the stadium's history, Masondo said the old stadium was officially opened by the then minister of Bantu administration and development, Daan de Wet Nel, on 2 May 1959.

"This facility, Orlando Stadium, was built at a cost of ₤36 000 [₤21 000 came from private companies and ₤15 000 came from the city council].

"Today, more than four decades later, Orlando Stadium has been rebuilt at a cost of R280-million; 25 percent of this amount came from the Municipality Infrastructure Grant and 75 percent came directly from the City's budget. This area, Greater Soweto, many would agree - where more than 40 percent of the City's population is located - truly deserves such an intervention."

Located in the township of Orlando East, the stadium changes the skyline of Soweto - and will also change the lives of the people of the township, according to Masondo.

He said 2 205 jobs had been created and training was being provided in the fields of carpentry, bricklaying, plastering and painting. "We have also taken steps that seek to ensure that this facility is embraced and owned by the entire community."

State-of-the-art facilities

When the City announced that the old stadium was to be demolished and reconstructed, Masondo said it had a vision of what the new stadium would look like - a multipurpose venue with state-of-the-art facilities.

These include:

  • 120 hospitality suites;
  • conference facilities;
  • meeting rooms;
  • gymnasium;
  • fan shop;
  • offices; and
  • security facilities, including CCTV  cameras that extend into the stadium precinct.

In addition, well-lit footways have been constructed at Orlando and Mlamlankunzi railway stations. Surveillance cameras are to be extended to these footways to improve spectator safety.

To support these developments, the South African Rail Commuter Corporation is also upgrading the Orlando Railway Station.

Source: City of Johannesburg website, www.joburg.org.za.