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SPECTACULAR OPENING TO WORLD CUP.

THE 19th edition of the Fifa World Cup was yesterday opened by a spectacular ceremony in Johannesburg, albeit in front of a less-than-capacity Soccer City.

The likes of United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, Mexican president Felipe Calderon, Prince Albert of Monaco and United States vice-president Joe Biden attended, while Archbishop Desmond Tutu and president Jacob Zuma were amongt those spotted.

However, there was one notable absentee at the opening - former president Nelson Mandela, who pulled out following the death of his great-granddaughter Zenani in a car crash. The 13-year-old was killed on the way home from Thursday night's Soweto concert heralding the launch of the tournament, which is being held in Africa for the first time.

Mr Mandela, 91, had been expected to play some part in the opening-day festivities, although his family expressed concerns about his health.

However, his absence did not stop the 1,581 artists from enthralling the crowd - at least half of whom disappointingly missed out on proceedings after arriving late to the 85,000-capacity venue.

After an aerial display by the South African air force, a group of drummers and dancers performed a 'Welcome to Africa' song which included an introduction to all 10 of the tournament's venues.

The next sequence saw a gigantic beetle show off its football skills with the Jabulani - the official football of the finals - before large pieces of cloth were used to show a map of the continent.

A smoking calabash, depicting the stadium design, showed off another side of Africa, while the colour and splendour drew even more roars from the slowly-filling stadium.

The opening concluded with a display of flags from the 176 member associations which failed to qualify, surrounding those that did with voices of children sounding out the names of all the 32 qualifiers.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 12, 2010
Words:298
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