Africa gets its time in spotlight.
THEY called it the Scramble for Africa, a time at the end of the 19th century when the European powers were caught up in a murderous rush to exploit the riches of what they called The Dark Continent.
The British grabbed South Africa, Rhodesia, The Gambia, Nigeria and many more. Belgium raped The Congo, the Portuguese went into Mozambique and the French took Algeria, Tunisia, Ivory Coast and much of the rest.
When they had had their fill, the colonial powers either left or were kicked out, leaving behind nations scarred, pillaged and destabilised. They cast Africa adrift and left it to try to fix itself.
And then yesterday, the world came back. It turned its eyes to Africa again not with pity or charity or greed or even guilt but to celebrate The Greatest Show on Earth. And what was once called the Dark Continent bathed in the light. As the opening ceremony at Soccer City in Johannesburg began yesterday, a giant message flashed up on the scoreboards at either end of the spectacular stadium. "Ke Nako", it said. "It's Time". Jet fighters roared overhead, tribesmen danced across the pitch and, in the centre circle, steam rose from a likeness of a calabash, the traditional African cooking pot that the design of the stadium is based upon. In the stands, the supporters blew on their vuvuzelas and Archbishop Desmond Tutu boogied to some rap, swathed not in his robes but in the yellow and gold of the national team.
And when the South African side emerged from their changing room to warm up before the opening match against Mexico, they did not walk to the pitch. They danced to it, swaying from side as one.
Perhaps it sounds naive to acclaim the staging of a month-long football tournament as a landmark in the history of an entire continent. But when the World Cup began amid scenes of joy and pride, it was greeted by South Africans as a symbol of rebirth.
As the front page editorial in The Star newspaper put it: "This is our second wind."
JOY J Archbishop Desmond Tutu