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Durban-Cape Town: Contrasting coasts

June 10, 2010
By Firdose Moonda

The two coastal cities that will host the semi-finals clash as starkly as the green and yellow of the Bafana Bafana's strip. One is east, the other west; one has the warm Indian Ocean and the other the chilly Atlantic along most of its coast. One is known for being a holiday destination where visitors are expected to do nothing other than relax and the other is a tourist hotspot where some of South Africa's most iconic symbols can be seen. They've each hosted semi-finals of major tournaments before, such as the Rugby World Cup in 1995 and the Cricket World T20 in 2007 and now Durban and Cape Town are gearing up for 15 FIFA World Cup matches.

Cape Town, South Africa
GettyImagesSouth African fans flood the Cape Town streets on draw day.

• World Cup Gallery: Host cities

The pair can be thought as the runner-up princesses of a beauty pageant, with Johannesburg being regarded as Miss South Africa. Ironically, many residents of Johannesburg flock to both in holiday time and they're not the only ones who regard the east and west coast of the country as visitable.

Durban is famed for its beaches and warm ocean, which even in winter can be swum in. Its tourist attractions include the uShaka Marine World, an aquatic theme park, the old Indian market in Grey Street and meandering Midlands hills, about an hour's drive inland. Cape Town has the edge of over Durban when sightseeing, with Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, the Winelands and whale-watching mecca Hermanus for nature lovers and Robben Island, the Cape Town Castle and Parliament for those who want to experience the historical culture of the country.

While Cape Town markets itself as a luxury destination, Durban prides itself on being a multi-sport municipality, as it hosts a variety of sporting events, from the usual cricket, rugby and football, to the Comrades Marathon, the Midmar Mile swimming race and the Dusi Canoe Marathon. The cities are equally sought after by tourists who are interested in their respective selling points and now they each have something new to add to their list of attractions. Both Durban and Cape Town had stadiums built for the World Cup and both are magnificent.

Durban's Moses Mabhida Stadium is named after a former South African Communist Party leader and took three years and four months to construct. It was built on the old Kings Park Stadium, in a sporting precinct which also includes a rugby stadium, and is characterised by its Wembley-esque arch. The arch took 10 months alone to build, weighs 2 600 tons and is also home to the world's biggest bungee swing. Fans can jump off the fourth ladder rung, hurtle towards the pitch and then swung out in a 220 metre arc. The stadium is surrounded by a 100 columns, of varying heights, and is an artistic masterpiece.

The Cape Town Stadium was built on the land occupied by the Green Point Stadium which was demolished. It too has an eye-catching roof, which has been built to resemble a Ndebele (a South African tribe) hat. The design of the roof has to be specifically modified to cope with the conditions of Cape Town's notorious winds, particularly the destructive south-easter. The roof has panels of glass to shield fans from the elements and is held up with 72 cables. The actual stadium is enveloped in a façade of woven fibreglass and Teflon and is said to resemble a rose-coloured bowl floating on a base when lit up at night. It was criticised for its unoriginal name.

Both cities are old hands at playing host and both have undergone upgrades to their transport systems. Cape Town International Airport, the second largest in South Africa, has a new central terminal building. Durban got a new airport, the King Shaka airport, which lies north of the city (the previous airport was south of the city). Both cities will have park and ride facilities and road closures around the stadiums - both hold an impressive 70,000 people.

Despite neither city being at altitude, four teams chose to base themselves in Durban with another three along the Garden Route, relatively close to Cape Town. Two of the six African teams are in Durban. Algeria are staying at the Zimbali Lodge while Cameroon are at the Oyster Box. The latter is a newly refurbished hotel, which hosted the England cricket team during their tour in December-January this year. It is located in the seaside resort of Umhlanga and is characterised by bright, red, bar furniture, although hopefully the players won't be seeing too much of that. Also in Umhlanga are cash-strapped Greece whose football team clearly doesn't feel the aftershock of its country's debt crisis, staying at the pale pink Beverley Hills Hotel, a favourite of the New Zealand rugby team.

Further inland are Paraguay, at the Woodridge Hotel. While the teams above are all sharing their hotels with members of the public, Paraguay has the Woodridge Hotel in the Midlands all to themselves. The hotel is having a month-long shut down to accommodate the national side and the Under-21 team. They held a soccer day at the end of May to prepare the community for the team's arrival and signs welcoming them can be seen adorning Nottingham Road.

France are staying at the Pezula Hotel, in Knysna, about 500 kilometres east of Cape Town, but were not given as warm a welcome. The establishment is rated as one of the world's best but were faced with a group of protesting former employees on the eve of their FIFA handover. The workers claimed there were labour malpractices taking place at the hotel and were using its World Cup profile to air their grievances. Pezula applied for a High Court interdict to stop workers from protesting and carrying out threats of damaging the hotel.

Also in Knysna are Denmark, who are at the Simola Hotel. They have had no issues with their camp but are certainly being pampered. It's a five star hotel and spa and is in nestled in a golf estate. Japan are also at a golf venue - Fancourt in George, which has three courses designed by Gary Player. They are occupying 50 of the hotel's 150 rooms and have a sushi restaurant. It is also considered a special place for Japanese as women's golfer Ai Miyazto was part of a twosome that lifted the women's World Cup there. The team have been uneasy since their arrival with coach Takeshi Okada telling the players not to wander outside without a security guard, in case of a crime, and have been told by the Minister in the Japanese embassy in Pretoria, Hideyuki Sakamoto to be careful since "Japanese are seen as easy targets for thieves".

Durban and Cape Town have almost become default semi-final venues and although it's unlikely either one will host a final anytime soon, the 15 matches spread across these two coastal cities means they are primed to received tourists and football teams alike. While they are different in most ways, one things make them very much the same - their contrasting appeal.

Matches to be held in Cape Town:
• 11 June: Uruguay vs France
• 14 June: Italy vs Paraguay
• 18 June: England vs Algeria
• 21 June: Portugal vs North Korea
• 24 June: Cameroon vs Netherlands
• 29 June: Round of 16 (Winners H vs Runners up G)
• 3 July: Quarter-final
• 6 July: Semi-final

Teams based in Cape Town:
• France: Pezula Hotel, Knysna
• Japan: Fancourt, George
• Denmark: Simola Hotel, Knysna

Matches to be held in Durban:
• 13 June: Germany vs Australia
• 16 June: Spain vs Switzerland
• 19 June: Netherlands vs Japan
• 22 June: Nigeria vs South Korea
• 25 June: Brazil vs Portugal
• 28 June: Round of 16 (Winner E vs Runners up F)
• 7 July: Semi-final

Teams based in Durban:
• Greece: Beverley Hills Hotel
• Algeria: Zimbali Lodge
• Paraguay: Woodridge Hotel
• Cameroon: Oyster Box