Ellis Park Stadium already has a place in history and is firmly cemented in the hearts of every South African. In the 1995 Rugby World Cup Final, South Africa achieved the impossible in front of a nation riding the wave of patriotic zeal by beating New Zealand. Nelson Mandela looked on as Francois Pienaar lifted the trophy that signalled a new dawn for South African sport. The 70 000 seat stadium was built originally in 1928 and is one of the few in the country with a real sense of history and character. The upgrades for the World Cup have cost US$63m and included an extra 10 000 seats and extensive modernisation to meet all the criteria that Fifa require. The ground is in weekly use throughout the season as it is home to Golden Lions Rugby Union club and Orlando Pirates FC. Ellis Park is also easily accessible by rail or the many park and ride areas.
There has long been a stigma surrounding Johannesburg for is corruption and violence, however, its people are trying to eradicate this with many regeneration programmes in an attempt to reinvent the city. The center of Johannesburg is a vibrant, fast paced concrete jungle with many sky scrapers and office blocks, but just a little way out of the centre are new areas such as Newtown. Formerly run down and riddled with crime, Newtown is now buzzing with new restaurants, shops and bars. There is a fantastic fan park here that will show all the games of the World Cup on huge screens and has many bars littered around here for the World Cup traveller to indulge and mingle with other fans. For the more cultured, Newtown also has the Museum of Africa which exhibits South African history and dotted around this are many temporary exhibitions that are also worth a look.
Ellis Park Stadium has some fantastic games lined up for the World Cup , seven in all and all crackers. The stadium’s first game kicks off with Maradona’s Argentina taking on Nigeria, a fixture that will provide as much colour, passion and noise off the pitch as it will skill, power and elegance on it. Brazil are the next super power to grace the field as they take on minnows North Korea in what should be a formality for Dunga. Slovenia and the United States battle it out next for a qualifying spot in England’s group before European champions Spain will look to demolish lowly Honduras. The final group game will see Slovenia take on the world champions Italy in a game where Italy will be hoping to have already qualified. The second round could bring a possible cataclysmic battle between Brazil and Spain but this would need one of the giants to finish second in the group. Finally, Ellis Park will host a game in the Quarter Finals on 3rd July which, no matter who is involved, will be another chapter of history written on the pitch of this great stadium.