Monday, November 29, 1999

Cape Town fan fest seeped in S.African history

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Overlooked by Table Mountain with seagulls squawking above, Cape Town's World Cup fan park has a million dollar view and a platinum link to apartheid South Africa's final death-rattle.The Grand Parade square is where freed icon Nelson Mandela spoke to his racially fractured country after not being seen for nearly three decades."Today the majority of South Africans, black and white, recognise that apartheid has no future," the future president told the emotional crowd 20 years ago.Last Friday, the same venue was the scene of similar euphoria as white and black fans came together for the opening ceremony and match of the World Cup, watching the Bafana Bafana national team defy the odds by drawing with Mexico.Heavy rain kept the crowds at bay on Monday night when Italy played Paraguay but organisers expect tens of thousands to turn up again this Friday when England take on Algeria.Cape Town is home to a big expat British community and red and white English flags are a common sight flying from motorists' side windows. For many who were at the opening match, the only skin colour at the fan park was the national colours of green and gold."The love we have for each other here -- whether you're black, white, pink or grey -- it makes me happy," said Siyabonga Kalipa, one of 42,000 fans who passed through the gates on kick-off when South Africa drew 1-1 with Mexico."Sports is the one thing that unites us." Kalipa was young when apartheid ruled South Africa, when inter-racial relationships were banned and blacks forced to use separate toilets, buses, schools, and to live in segregated, poorly serviced areas."I'm still experiencing it today. Occasions like this unite us and we actually forget about our past," he said.The fan park lies opposite Cape Town's imposing Edwardiancity hall and is a hop from South Africa's oldest colonial building, a castle constructed by Dutch traders between 1666 and 1679.Hawkers on the traditional trading ground were shifted to around the site, which leads to a 2.4-kilometre fan walk to the stadium. The views of Table Mountain are a television camera's dream."We believe it's unrivalled. The visual impact is quite amazing," said Cape Town spokesman Pierre Cronje."The Grand Parade for us is just a special place. We see as part of an offering of all the faces, people and places of Cape Town."Mandela, fondly known by his clan name "Madiba", was whisked to Grand Parade after walking free from prison near Paarl, some 40 minutes drive from Cape Town, after spending the bulk of his life-term on Robben Island.Many on Grand Parade are too young to remember the day he spoke from the balcony of city hall, or the knife-edge tensions of the time, but the 91-year-old was among the dancing crowd two decades later, at least in spirit.Hand-written but all-encompassing, one sign simply read: "Madiba magic".

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