June 7, 2010 – The World Cup’s opening celebrations roll over two days this week, in a musical double feature that boasts top stars like Shakira on Thursday, with a still-secret performance ahead of the match Friday.
Tens of millions of people are expected to watch the concert, broadcast live from 1800 GMT Thursday from Orlando Stadium, a 40,000-seater in the heart of Johannesburg’s Soweto township.
Tickets have long since sold out, with prices up to 1,400 Rand (200 dollars, 140 euros), to watch Shakira perform the tournament’s official song “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” with South African pop group Freshlyground.
They will share the stage with American performers such as Black Eyed Peas, Alicia Keys and John Legend, as well as Colombian heart-throb rocker Juanes.
Top African musicians will also grab the spotlight, including Angelique Kidjo from Benin, The Parlotones from South Africa and Amadou and Mariam, the blind musical duo from Mali.
For the actual opening ceremony on Friday, ahead of the match between the hosts and Mexico, FIFA is tight-lipped about what to expect at one of the world’s most-watched events.
The 25 minute performance at Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium is produced by Lebo M, the Soweto-born musician behind Broadway’s “The Lion King”.
South Africa’s first black president Nelson Mandela has picked a British tune to play at the opening, a song called “Hope” by rocker Russ Ballard and solo artist Chris Winter.
But the young black South African opera tenor tapped by Mandela to sing the number, 34-year-old Siphiwo Ntshebe, died suddenly last month of meningitis.
Lebo M has yet to say how or if he will replace Ntshebe, who was set to sing among 2,000 performers on the field before nearly 95,000 fans.
The concert on Thursday in Soweto has also drawn controversy from a local artists’ union, who have called for a boycott to demand more South African acts in the line-up.
“This is not an African event, we are telling the masses to stay away from this event,” said Oupa Lebogo, general secretary of the Creative Workers of South Africa.
Government has urged people to ignore the boycott call for the show, which will benefit a FIFA charity that uses football to promote public health and education in poor communities across Africa.