CAPE TOWN, July 6 – Fans for the Netherlands and Uruguay descended on Cape Town for their semi-final match Tuesday, with the city's airport welcoming a slew of charter flights and private planes for the event.
Hundreds of Dutch fans have criss-crossed South Africa in an "Oranjecamping" caravan, setting up campsites as they followed their team on its winning streak through the group stages and the quarter-finals.
The Netherlands remain the hot favourites in the match that kicks off at 1830 GMT, but the campsite has dwindled to about 30 people who set up just outside Cape Town.
While many fans had already returned home, thousands were still expected to arrive for the match at the city’s iconic seaside stadium, with Table Mountain towering in the background.
"Given the magnitude of today’s game, we expect increased air traffic volumes at Cape Town airport, most flights are fully booked," said Solomon Makgale, spokesman for the Airports Company South Africa, adding that much of the increased traffic was charter flights and private jets.
"We have two types of travellers, those who are already in the country and those who will be flying directly to Cape Town from Holland or South America," said Makgale.
Street vendors were setting up to support both sides, with sellers wearing blue wigs for Uruguay as they draped orange scarves and beanies on their stands.
Uruguay is playing their first World Cup semi-final match in 40 years. But after a hand ball robbed Ghana of a quarter-final win, on top of Uruguay’s drubbing South Africa in the group stages, many local fans will be rooting for Netherlands.
One group of Dutch fans were caught in controversy during the group stages, when 36 women showed up for the match against Denmark wearing orange mini-dresses made by Bavaria beer in the Netherlands.
FIFA complained the stunt amounted to ambush marketing, in violation of its strict sponsorship rules, but eventually dropped charges against the women after the Dutch foreign ministry lambasted the world football body’s heavy-handed tactics.
But a South African online media company — whose trademark colour is also orange — is reviving the episode ahead of the Cape Town clash, posting an advert calling for the "Bavaria 36" to come forward and tell their story.
"We are calling on all the ladies who were part of this event to come forward and tell their story, have their picture taken and to tell our readers a little about themselves," Independent Online said on its website.
"We find it appalling that, after all they’ve endured, these poor ladies have not been paid for their showing and would like to compensate them for their ordeal," it said.
On Wednesday, the attention shifts to Durban for the second semi-final match between Germany and Spain, with the final set for Sunday in Soccer City in Johannesburg.
Preparations for the closing show Sunday remain a closely guarded secret, but the main question is whether Nelson Mandela will be there.
South Africa’s first black president cancelled a planned appearance at the June 11 opening, after his great-granddaughter was killed in a car accident.
The Nobel laureate turns 92 one week after the final and appears in increasingly frail health. His foundation says no decision has been made yet on whether he will attend, and his schedule is prone to change at the last minute.