The Lowvelder

Thousands of feet at stadium no easy feat

- Buks Viljoen

MBOMBELA - A heart-throbbing experience. This is how Mpumalanga, the Lowveld, the city’s residents - in fact, the whole of South Africa described the historical test match against New Zealand’s All Blacks.

The crowd was packed into the city’s sports stadium, yelling louder than the vuvuzelas had trumpeted during the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Despite a few unforeseen issues making things uncomforta­ble for supporters, the preparatio­ns by Roelf Kotze, the stadium manager, and his team ran like clockwork.

“One of the greatest factors contributi­ng to the success in the preparatio­ns for the event is the operationa­l plans and experience we had during the 2010 Fifa World Cup,” said Kotze.

“I must admit there is a vast difference between the Fifa event and the clash between the Springboks and the All Blacks.

“During 2010, Fifa did all the preparatio­ns, and they had a large contingent of support teams who were responsibl­e for the various tasks.

“This time around we had to organise the whole event on our own. We were fortunate enough to have gained valuable experience since 2010, by hosting other internatio­nal soccer and rugby events. But this event was bigger than anything we as stadium management had to do in the past.”

The stadium team had to plan in detail for every possible scenario, be it a medical emergency, running out of buses or even a shortage of beer!

Kotze said the role of social media platforms, which was not even available during 2010, contribute­d massively to the success of the event: “Messages and informatio­n about the event could be channelled to the public immediatel­y.

“We appointed a large number of temporary staff to assist with the event. A much-needed spin-off to this were the job creation and income opportunit­ies for residents, small entreprene­urs and other businesses.

“Our main aim right from the start was to present an event that was fun-filled and as stress-free for supporters as possible. I believe we absolutely succeeded in this.”

Kotze said one of the biggest frustratio­ns supporters experience during similar events, is getting to a stadium. “Who wants to sit stuck in traffic for hours on end before and after a game?”

The park-and-ride system that was implemente­d, ensured that all spectators arrived at the stadium precinct joyful

‘Our main aim right from the start was to present an event that was funfilled and as stress-free for supporters as possible’

and relaxed.

“The systems worked so well that an hour before kick-off, there was no traffic towards the stadium and buses were standing idle at the pick-up points.”

Ninety Buscor buses and 40 private bus charters were part of the systems.

Many supporters arrived as early as 07:00 on match day, set up their gazebos and braais in the dedicated braai area and made it a family outing.

When the gates to the stadium itself were eventually opened, Kotze said there was no big rush of supporters into the stadium to find their seats.

“By the time the anthems were sung, everybody was seated. And I believe the relaxed mood of supporters on the pavilions created the electrifie­d atmosphere in the stadium.

“Never in my live have I experience­d such a proud and goosebumps-filled moment when ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika’ was belted out by the hordes on the pavilions!”

Before and during the match, a team of 550 people served 112 000 beers to supporters.

To ensure the safety of visitors, at least 600 security personnel were deployed in and around the stadium. These teams were supported by six CCTV operators that kept a close eye on everybody.

To act on any other eventualit­y, seven plumbers, three electricia­ns, one lift repair specialist, two generator experts and one electronic ticket technician, among others, were on standby.

“We had an agreement with Eskom that guaranteed that no load-shedding was implemente­d during the event. If an unfortunat­e power cut was to be happen, we had four 1 200kVA generators, with two 32 000L diesel tanks, four 400kVA UPSs and a power bank consisting of 520 batteries available.”

Silulumanz­i, the city’s water supplier, also had its whole fleet of vehicles and trucks on-site.

“Overall, this was such a unique event and experience to be part of. I applaud the contributi­on the residents made to welcome visitors to our city. It makes us proud to call ourselves residents of the Lowveld,” Kotze said.

 ?? > Photos: Kaptured Concepts ?? Siya Kolisi applauds the crowd.
> Photos: Kaptured Concepts Siya Kolisi applauds the crowd.
 ?? ?? Supporters enjoy the game.
Supporters enjoy the game.

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