[PHOTO AT LEFT - The Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, Soccer City in Johannesburg]

MANILA, JUNE 18, 2010 (STAR) Temperatures are soaring, and World Cup fever will grip the world for a whole month as teams from 32 countries play out 64 matches in 10 stadiums in South Africa in what is considered the biggest, grandest sporting event in the world. There will be no let-up to this madness until the final goal is scored on July 11 – and even after a new champion is crowned, the fever will linger on.

Even though football – referred to as soccer in these environs – is not the premier sport in the country, more and more Filipinos and Philippine residents are being caught up in the World Cup frenzy.

As the 2010 FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) World Cup kicks off this week (opening was last Friday), Metro Manila will have the opportunity to join in the excitement as the South African embassy and The Podium in Mandaluyong City mount an exhibit celebrating the event at the mall’s Atrium until June 20.

The exhibit features the stadiums South Africa has built as the first African host of this prestigious event, as well as breathtaking photographs of the beauty of the country. Other partners include Balls TV and Sony.

The exhibit will feature some of the 10 stadiums that will host the 64 games of the 19th FIFA World Cup. Together, these stadiums will seat more than 570,000 people during the event.

Major planning has taken place to ensure that the soccer stadiums will be multi-purpose facilities that will not only be able to host the matches for the World Cup from June 11 to July 11, but will also be suitable for entertainment and sports long after the sun has set on the year 2010.

Since 2006, there have been major investments in the building of new stadiums, and the upgrading of existing ones so that visitors will enjoy watching and cheering for their favorite teams from these modern facilities.

Better still, these agricultural wonders are located in some of South Africa’s most historical and scenic locations. These include the host city of Nelson Mandela Bay that has the biggest waves and highest bungee jump in the world. Located at the Eastern Cape with scenic sea and bush, it is also the birthplace of Nobel Peace laureate Nelson Mandela.

Other host city stadiums include those of Bloemfontein, Johannesberg, Durban, Polokwane, Nelspruit, and Rustenberg. The stadium in Bloemfontein is the home of the official mascot of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, a football crazy leopard called Zakumi (ZA for South Africa and kumi which means 10), who can’t wait to welcome guests. Meanwhile, football lovers will find Johannesberg easy to reach and hard to leave once they discover its theaters, galleries, botanical and zoological gardens and shopping and entertainment hubs.

Durban is located in the province known as the Zulu Kingdom, and is known for its colorful cultures, fantastic beaches, and virtually perfect weather; while Polokwane is untamed Africa at its finest with immense landscapes, skilled Venda sculptors, a variety of indigenous cultures, and the mystical baobab tree.

Stadiums are also located in Nelspruit, home to the world’s most famous game reserve Kruger Park, the only green canyon on the planet; and Rustenburg, which means town of rest and is one of the oldest cities in the North West Province.

The exhibit will also feature breathtaking photographs of South Africa that will open your mind to the warmth of a welcome, to the beat of a unique nation, the sounds of wildlife, and the whisper of warm winds dancing off the sea.

The photographs reveal a place where the mountains rise, exquisite landscapes drift into distant horizons, and the sun melts into warm seas – a place where you can discover the beginning of time.

It‘s a place that’s vibrant. Where you’ll find city light sand star-studded nights, exquisite cuisine, and world-renowned wines. It’s a place where you will hear the roar of lions and the whisper of grasslands. Where you will enjoy so much more, even as you bask in the thrill and the excitement that only the World Cup can provide.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved