(Reuters) – World Cup Organizers fear traffic chaos could mar the start of the tournament at Johannesburg’s showpiece stadium, and urged fans to leave their cars at home and arrive early for games.
Helicopters buzzed above the Soccer City stadium on the edges of Johannesburg on Wednesday and Organizers said everything was ready for Friday’s opening ceremony, although concern lingered over the city’s notorious traffic congestion.
“It’s a worry that we might have some gridlock and congestion from 9 a.m. in the morning to 8 p.m. at night,” said Rich Mkhondo, a spokesman for the local World Cup organizing committee.
He called on those going to matches to use buses and trains to help ease jams, which have already snarled highways in the run-up to the tournament.
“For all matches the gates will open three hours before … we urge people to arrive two hours before,” he told a news conference.
City officials have pledged to fix traffic problems, which disrupted the inaugural match at Soccer City last month.
The stadium, which has been overhauled and redesigned in the shape of a traditional cooking pot or calabash for the World Cup, has a capacity of more than 90,000 and will host eight matches, including the opening and closing games.
Despite local Organizers’ concerns about the risk of traffic jams, FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot said final preparations were complete for Friday’s opening celebrations and the first game between South Africa and Mexico.
“We’re all excited to finally be so close to the kickoff of the World Cup,” he told a news conference.
(Editing by Jon Bramley and Michael Holden)