The beat is on - Afcon organisers foil Mother Nature 1-0
GRAMMY Award-winner Oumou Sangare withdrew from the performance at the last minute and local security personnel downed tools as torrential rain sealed a low-key 2013 Africa Cup of Nations opening ceremony here yesterday.
Billed to perform Sangane, better known as the Songbird of Wassoulou,broke her leg when she slipped and fell on a rainy surface on her way to an interview.
Local jazz musician Sibongile Khumalo had to stand in for her.
While Sangare is reportedly in a stable condition in hospital, there wasn't much security as the local security companies felt they were being exploited by the Confederation of African Football (Caf).
Caf is offering R75 a shift, an amount deemed too little by the security personnel, who usually get more from the Premier Soccer League.
This resulted in the security personnel pulling out, leaving Caf security stretched around the stadium.
But, amid much excitement, the tournament kicked off as scheduled, despite the rain.
Featuring some of Africa's most gifted artists, the vibrant opening ceremony, whose theme was Celebrate Africa - The Beat at Africa's Feet!,drew a true mixture of the rainbow nation.
It was a befitting kickoff to the tourney. The event organisers were mindful enough to include a mix of both established and emerging talent making the words "Celebrate Africa" a reality.
The showers had sought to throw a spanner in the works for the organisers and preparations were briefly delayed for the opening ceremony.
Fans started trickling into the venue just as rain intensified, but this did not dampen spirits.
Thankfully, the transport system was efficient - as smooth as it was during the 2010 World Cup.
The park-and-ride once again proved a solution to the usual sickening traffic jams.
Avid Bafana fan Steven Maluleka said he was pleased with the efficient and hassle-free system.
"It took me a good 15 minutes to get into the stadium. I found it quite fun to use the BRT bus and I wish the same system could be used for PSL category A games," he said.
Choreographer Somizi Mhlongo said he felt a bit nervous, but was more worried about his dancing crew, who had to perform on a hazardous wet surface.
"But we have to perform, rain or no rain," said Mhlongo.
Other artists who performed at the opening were South African vocalists Judith Sephuma, Lira, Siphokazi and Ayanda Nhlangothi, Kenya's artist-activist Eric Wainana, South African spoken word artist Afurukan and South Africa's musical treasures, Sipho 'Hotstix' Mabuse and crooner Ringo Madlingozi.
Hope once again prevailed among the locals, who turned out in numbers for the occasion.
As the grey clouds showed no sign of clearing, the fans hid under cover, leaving the chairs empty (bad picture for television).
The Beat at Africa's Feet - feel it, it is here!