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Destination: South Africa
Posted by Jayaditya Gupta on 07/11/2010

The crowds of TV crews arrive at Soccer City. © Getty Images

It’s noon and I’m at Soccer City. A bit early, you might think, but never too early on World Cup final day. There are roadblocks to negotiate, crowds to avoid and all the excitement to savour.

The roadblocks come courtesy of the VVIPs who are in town: One queen (Spain), one king (Monaco, though technically he’s just a prince), two princes (Spain and the Netherlands) and 15 presidents. And Sepp Blatter, who is technically a president but fits more easily into the royalty category.

More exciting, perhaps, are those who fall in FIFA’s “guests” category: Rafael Nadal, hoping for a repeat of 2008; Katharina Witt, who (I know it’s a tenuous link!) won an Olympic gold in 1988, the year the Dutch won the Euros; Shakira, of course; actor Morgan Freeman, probably as a standby in case Nelson Mandela can’t attend; and a host of footballing greats, from Matthaus to Desailly to Weah and Milla.

That’s an awful lot of black Mercedes and police escorts; no wonder the radio’s been on about clogged roads from the morning. My short cab ride to the bus pickup had two interruptions: one for said black Mercedes and escorts (I couldn’t make out who was in the Merc) and one for the bus carrying Spain from presumably their team base to their town hotel. It flashed by but I did make out Fabregas peering out the window, no doubt wondering whether he’d get a role tonight.

The stadium complex is a hive of activity even though kick-off is more than eight hours away. Some of the car parks are populated, a few are almost full. Everywhere there are armies: armies of volunteers, of police, of hospitality staff in their whites, of the FIFA TV crew in their blue, of, well, troops in their fatigues.

There are 90,000 people to feed, search, protect, usher in and out, make comfortable. It’s a brilliantly clear winter’s afternoon; the forecast is fine, not too chilly. Shakira and co are expected to perform around 1830. I can hear the music already pounding from the stadium. Watch this space.

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