I have visited â€˜Joburgâ€™ just once, so my first-hand knowledge of the city is quite limited. But let me start with a brief historyâ€¦Johannesburg is the economic heart of South Africa. It is the largest and richest city in South Africa, yet no one could have imagined the repercussions when an unemployed miner found a stone bearing traces of gold here in 1886, an event that led to the discovery of the world's richest natural treasure trove. The development of the city, which is just over a century old, has followed the fortunes of the Witwatersrand (White Water Reef), the rich gold-bearing rock reef that stretches across this area of central South Africa. The initial gold rush started in the 1880s, and barely ten years later Johannesburg had become South Africaâ€™s largest town and the site of frenzied development that has been ongoing ever since.
People flocked to Johannesburg, South Africa from all ends of the earth, and the open pastoral landscape changed almost overnight. Shantytowns sprang up and were rapidly transformed into modern concrete cities. Johannesburg became 'The Gold Capital of the World', and South Africa was catapulted into an economic boom.
Today the shantytown remains, a vast and sprawling tin-roofed expanse that houses millions of extremely poor South African people. Astonishingly, the opulent and luxurious mansions of the rich are located less than a mile distant, behind high walls and razor wire. The obvious tension between rich and poor characterizes Johannesburg, South Africa and finds expression in its high crime rate.
It's a big city with a lot of very rich and very poor people living in it. And even though it has a crime problem, so do plenty of other cities. Its streets are rundown, but generally cleaner and better maintained than somewhere like London. In the last three years central Johannesburg has improved immeasurably: businesses are moving back into the centre of town, mansion blocks are being cleaned up and reclaimed, shops and supermarkets are reopening and new buildings are going up.
Soccer City Stadium
Soccer City can quite rightfully call itself the home of football in South Africa. In the mid 1980s, football officials came together to build the first international football stadium in the country and the construction was funded from the football fraternity's coffers.
Soccer City hosted the first mass rally of Nelson Mandela after his release in 1990. Thousands of mourners lamented Chris Hani's assassination at the stadium in 1993. It was also the venue for the 1996 CAF Africa Cup of Nations finals, with South Africa eventually triumphing. It is also a neighbor to the home of the South African Football Association and its new headquarters, the SAFA House. The Local Organizing Committee for the 2010 FIFA World Cupâ„¢, as well as the FIFA offices, are currently being housed in SAFA House.
Construction on Soccer City Stadium
Soccer City will be the flagship stadium for the first FIFA World Cup in Africa. The design is unique and unusual as the outer part of the stadium is designed to resemble an African pot. About 40 percent of Joburg's population lives in Soweto, in close proximity to Soccer City. This will make the stadium a hub of activity during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. It currently seats 80,000 people, but after its planned upgrade should seat 94,700.