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Tuesday, November 10, 2009
ESPNsoccernet: February 24, 10:24 PM UK
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium

Nick Bidwell

Name Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Year completed 2009
Cost US$150,000,000
Capacity 48,000
Home to Bay United, Southern Kings (to be confirmed)
Trivia The capacity will reduce to 44,000 after the tournament when temporary seating is removed. The first international game staged at the ground was a rugby match between Southern Kings and the British & Irish Lions in June 2009


Such is the influence of the iconic Nelson Mandela in these parts that there was only one person the city's brand-new World Cup stadium could be named after and the 48,000 capacity venue, built at a cost of $150 million, certainly does him proud. Functional, pleasing on the eye and in an utopian setting in the North End of Port Elizabeth on the shores of North End Lake, it really is pretty as a picture when the lights come on.

A light and airy three-tier design with two rings of sky boxes and a trademark wave-like roof design, the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium was the first of the 2010 new-builds to be completed and will play host to five first-round matches, a second-round tie, a quarter-final and the third-place play-off. An arena constructed specifically for football, it will be all the better for not boasting an athletics track. The closer you get to the action, the more exciting the games should be.

Close to the N2 motorway, the stadium is a short bus or cab ride from the vast range of B&Bs, self-catering accommodation and hotels on the beachfront. Driving direct to the ground is a further option, though you will have to be snappy to grab one of the 1,280 general parking bays.

The city's official Fan Park will be held at the sport stadium in St George's Park in the suburb of Park Drive. It will have room for up to 30,000 supporters of the beautiful game.


Where to go, what to see

The largest conurbation in the Eastern Cape, Port Elizabeth has many different faces.

It's first is that of major seaport and industrial heartland as it is the focal point of South African car manufacturing. Secondly, Port Elizabeth is a holiday resort, where water sports abound. Thirdly, it has a cultural heritage to be proud of as some of the most prominent anti-apartheid leaders have emerged from the region: Steve Biko, Thabo Mbeki, Oliver Tambo, Chris Hani and Walter Sisulu are all local heroes as well as one Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, who was born in nearby Transkei.

The city goes by a variety of names: short and sweet 'PE', 'The Friendly City' and 'The Windy City'. It is also recognised as the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality, the administrative area formed in 2001 to cover Port Elizabeth, the neighbouring towns of Uitenhage and Despatch plus the surrounding agricultural lands.

Port Elizabeth's airport is found in the suburb of Walmer, about 5km west of the city centre, with taxis into town generally costing around R35 ($4.80). The main railway station is located centrally in Station Street, just off Strand Street alongside the Campanile bell tower and the harbour entrance.

Buses to the suburbs, the beaches and the Greenacres shopping mall in Newtown Park 5km to the west depart from Market Square Bus station, which is located beneath Kwantu Towers on Strand Street. However, to best explore PE and the region, a hire car is a must.

A good way to quickly find your bearings in PE is to go on a city bus tour - Calabash Tours covers all the bases (Tel: 041 585 6162) - while the Apple Express tourist steam train offers you a memorably scenic day trip from Port Elizabeth to Thornhill Village via the Langkloof Valley. Trains depart from Humewood Station on Humewood Road at 9.30am, returning at 4.40pm, with return fares being R130 for adults and R65 for the kids.

Nothing is too much trouble for the ever-attentive staff at the chief tourist information centre in the Donkin Lighthouse Building on the Donkin Reserve in Belmont Terrace in the Central district. This national monument commemorates Elizabeth Donkin, after whom PE was named. The lighthouse can be climbed for stunning views over the Algoa Bay.

Parts of PE are not exactly pleasing on the eye - industrial development comes at a price, and the network of motorways and flyovers cutting across the south of town do not help either.

However, the city has got a lot going for it, not least the relaxed vibe, down-to-earth character and, of course, its beaches, the glorious sandy expanses in the coastal suburbs of Humewood and Summerstrand. Good-looking, safe and clean, they rightly rank among the best in the country. The trouble may be that, in June and July, PE can be wet and windy, but daytime highs of around 20 degrees will be appreciated by Northern Europeans, who should feel very much at home in such modest temperatures.

Needless to say, the beach locations of Humewood and Summerstrand are the obvious choices for bed and shelter and, even allowing for World Cup inflation, accommodation costs are not extortionate for an area jam-packed with restaurants, bars and clubs. The Boardwalk Casino Complex on Beach Road in Summerstrand ticks all the free-time boxes with its dazzling open-air mix of shops, craft markets, bars, takeaways, restaurants, gambling, cabaret and rides for kids.

Two restaurants definitely worth a try in the Boardwalk complex are Squire's Grill, which offers delicious steaks and lamb cutlets, and 34 South, a combination of deli, bistro and bar where the seafood is first-class, with great oysters, calamari and mussels, better herring than in Holland and the most delicious fish pate. The ostrich steaks are great, too. Other good bets for fruit-of-the-sea lovers are Blackbeard's Tavern on Brookes Hill in Summerstrand and Oyster Catcher at the harbour.

Cape Road is turning into a culinary hot-spot. The Coachman does a fantastic surf 'n' turf but, whatever you eat, leave some room after the main course for the baklava. Not to be outdone, the close-at-hand Wickerwoods is equally strong on the grill and seafood front. In the same street, Brazen Head is a great Irish pub and restaurant.

The centre of the pub and club action is found in Brookes Pavilion on Humewood Beach and the pick of the bunch is Toby Joe's, a huge watering hole with an even bigger clientele. The Gondwana Cafe in the Dolphin's Leap Centre in Humewood is a good eatery by day and buzzing club at night.

One excursion not to be missed is the trip 73km north to the Addo Elephant National Park, a massive 164,000 hectares of African wildlife, including some 450 elephants plus black rhinos, zebras, leopards, lions and many other species. Open from 7am to 7pm, the park charges a R100 admission fee for adults and R50 for kids. Something to look out for in what will be the PE raining season is that the dirt roads around the park can become impassable and the park closes down, so check before you travel.

One thing is for sure: any fan who lands in Port Elizabeth to sample the World Cup summer of 2010 will not be disappointed.


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