Rising out of the gold-soaked earth that built this country in the first place, the National Stadium's profile is unmistakable and is an apt venue to host the final of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
History of venue
The original stadium was opened two decades ago with the express purpose of hosting football matches. Soccer City, the FNB Stadium or the National Stadium as it will be known for the duration of the event, has played an integral part in South Africa's recent history and hosted a watershed moment in 1990 as 100 000 people descended on the venue to welcome Nelson Mandela's release from prison. Six years later South Africa's national team won the biggest prize in African football at the ground when they defeated Tunisia 2-0 to lift the African Cup of Nations title. In 2007, work began on the upgrade of the stadium for the 2010 World Cup.
Boogertman Urban Edge + Partners, the architectural firm that designed the new stadium, decided to utilise parts of the existing stadium when rebuilding the structure. The upgraded stadium though is barely recognisable from the venue it replaced as it is less angular than its predecessor. The bowl-shaped arena offers excellent views of the pitch and new seats were installed.
The design of the stadium takes its cue from African pottery and is sculpted in the shape of a traditional cooking pot or calabash. Grinekar-LTA won the tender to upgrade Soccer City and upwards of R1,5-billion was spent on modernising the stunning stadium.
Other changes included a new upper tier that boosts capacity to over 90 000 as well as new floodlights and close to a 100 added executive suites.
A transport hub bringing together the Bus Rapid Transport route has also been built on the stadium precinct.
Usage during AFCON 2013
In addition to hosting the final, two first-round matches will also take place at the venue.
The stadium is the official home ground for the South African national team and is also a popular venue for Soweto derbies between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs as well as other sports activities and big entertainment events.
How to get there
OR Tambo International airport - named after a prominent anti-apartheid activist - is a 20-30 minute drive from just about anywhere in or around the city. Public transport is rather thin on the ground so taxis are the next best thing after renting a car, but are expensive - it might even be cheaper to rent a car!
There is also a smaller airport in the north of the city called Lanseria, to which several of the low-cost carriers fly.
There are several bus stations round and about, connecting all over the country, and the Shosholoza Meyl trains from the south terminate at the station in town, but beware, the station is not such a safe place.
The N3 heads from Johannesburg to Durban through some terrific scenery, and the N1 or N12 head south to Cape Town, the N1 via Bloemfontein and the N12 via Kimberley. The N1 is a toll road and consequently better quality, but the N12 probably provides more in the way of interesting things to see. Cape Town is 16 hours away on the N1. The N1 also takes you north to Pretoria and beyond.
All of this, added to an internal network of highways and dual carriageways, make Jo'burg a spaghetti junction and road-signs are at a premium. If you are going to drive, buy a streetmap.