Madiba to light up opening ceremony


JOHANNESBURG, June 10 – South Africa's legendary trumpeter Hugh Masekela will jazz up the World Cup opening ceremony with American R-and-B star R Kelly, but all eyes will be on the stands for a glimpse of Nelson Mandela.Mandela’s family confirmed that the 91-year-old icon of the anti-apartheid struggle would attend the opening match, if only for a while, but no details have emerged about how or when he will arrive.

Organiser Derek Carstens promises a "big surprise" during the first seven minutes of the ceremony, but said the secret would not involve South Africa’s first black president, who is increasingly frail but still beloved.

On the ground, more than 1,500 performers will showcase music and dance from the "six-pack" of African countries participating in the continent’s first World Cup, Culture Minister Lulu Xingwana said.

"We’re very happy that we have the best from South Africa and the best from the African continent," she said.

R Kelly will perform with the Soweto Spiritual Singers. Nigerian Afro-funk star Femi Kuti will also perform, while South Africa will pay tribute to the late opera tenor Siphiwo Ntshebe.

The 34-year-old rising star had been asked by Mandela to sing at the opening ceremony, but he died suddenly last month of bacterial meningitis.

Details about the ceremony, which is being masterminded by South African producer Lebo M, famous for his work on "The Lion King" on Broadway, had been closely guarded in the months before the event.

Carstens promised there would be one more "big surprise" during the ceremony’s first seven minutes.

He said it would not involve Nobel Peace Prize-winner Mandela, whose family said Tuesday that he would make a brief appearance at the ceremony, ending weeks of uncertainty over whether the increasingly frail former president would attend.

Mandela’s involvement proved critical at key moments in the campaign to bring the tournament to Africa for the first time, and FIFA president Sepp Blatter has called him "the person who got the World Cup for South Africa".

The 40-minute opening ceremony starts at 2:00pm (1200 GMT) Friday ahead of the kick-off match between South Africa and Mexico.

Organisers expect hundreds of millions of viewers to watch on television, making it one of the world’s most-watched events.