The VWV Till Dawn Consortium's production of the ceremony proves SA is a world-class act

The VWV Consortium was responsible for the World Cup 2010 Opening and Closing ceremonies lived up to the high hopes of all South Africans with an eruption of colour, song, and dance, celebrating the world's African origins.
"We're certain that the opening ceremony was worthy of the hundreds of million viewers in all 215 countries. It followed a simple narrative where South Africa was celebrated as the prehistoric birthplace of all mankind," said Abey Mokgwatsane, CEO of VWV Group.

The ceremonies were the brainchild of the creative mastermind team, VWV Group aided by consulting producers, Jack Morton Worldwide (JMW). JMW has a track record of producing inspirational award-wining public events including the opening and closing ceremonies for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, The Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games, The Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games, and the Salt Lake 2002 Paralympics Winter Games. The creative team was assisted by a panel that included Ravi Naidoo from Interactive Africa and Mike Schalit from Network, and a government task force headed up by Professor Pitika Nthuli.

The VWV Till Dawn consortium was 50-strong and aided by a crew of over 300. The creative concept was developed over a five month period between November 2009 and March 2010. "An opportunity like this comes around once in a life time, and the VWV Group is proud and privileged to have been a part of this. Our cast of 1581 people have been incredible with the youngest member being just six years old and the oldest, in her late sixties," said Mark Steinhobel, Chairman of VWV and Executive Producer of the consortium.

Prior to the musical countdown of the opening ceremony signaling the impending start of the Opening Ceremony, spectators were treated to a commanding aerial performance by the SA Air Force's Gripen Fighter Jets and the Silver Falcons. The display team's 'Victory Roll' depicted the South African flag much to the delight of the audience.

The ceremony unfolded in five segments: A Land of Contrasts; The Calling; Africa Lives In All Of Us; Africa United; and, finally, The World United.

A Land of Contrasts
As the 3-minute countdown played out on the stadium screens the cast entered the central performance area. As the voice-over declared '3-2-1 minutes to go' a tangible feeling of expectation rippled through the stadium. Bursting into colour, the stadium screens began to introduce the world to South Africa. A short video displayed a land of contrasts and presented a snapshot of a 21st century Rainbow Nation.

The Calling
In the next sequence a Praise Poet was discovered centre stage as he called to the world to South Africa with song and introduced the other stadiums hosting the World Cup matches. He called out to the world in Xhosa with a beautiful poem, loosely translated:

"The historic moment has arrived.
Fellow Africans, today we rewrite history.
Because we have brought the World Cup to our soil.
The family of world nations is now in our land.
Beautiful Africans rise and walk tall.
Show your humanity to the world.
This is Africa
This is South Africa
This is the 2010 FIFA World Cup
Halala Africa Halala"

In response to the calling of 'The Poet of Africa', Zolani Mkhiva, nine drummers entered from nine different directions following the nine radial lines leading to the other nine stadiums that will play host to tournament matches.

Also responding to the call, 270 women - entered en masse chanting rhythmically as they spread across the entire field. A further nine groups of three drummers entered setting themselves at the end of each radiating line. As if cued by the nine drummers, the mass of women moved outwards to fill the gaps between the drummers as a voice-over welcomed the world to Soccer City. The music reached a crescendo with a short, sharp pyrotechnics display at the end of the radial lines.

Africa lives on in all of us:
This sequence set out to display that man took his first steps on the face of the earth in South Africa, before migrating across the world. The theme that all humankind are children of Africa and returning home, was well enacted. The very large dung beetle - unique icon of Africa that toils relentlessly to feed and replenish the earth - made its way onto the field lead by Thandiswa Mazwai performing the stunning 'click song', called 'uQongqothwane", made famous by the late Miriam Makeba. The song's meaning 'diviner of the roadway' was an apt rendition as Mazwai led the beetle and performers onto the field, where a giant calabash decorated in the style of the stadium was being erected.

The ceremony was all about larger-than-life and it was the gigantic Jabulani football's turn to roll out and join the parade for some sport with the dung beetle. The music then transitioned to Timothy Maloi singing the song of 'Hope' in tribute to Siphhiwo Ntshebe, who was set to perform the song until his life was cut short tragically. The stadium screens honoured one of the country's shining operatic talents during the performance. As Maloi departed the extinguished voice of Siphhiwo Ntshebe took over in a dramatic end to the song.

The parade cast then reconfigured, releasing their costume skirts wide to create a 'patchwork quilt' impression of the entire African continent. The rest of the world's continents were formed around Africa in cloth just before the cast dramatically froze to the recorded voice of Nelson Mandela saying: "The generosity of the human spirit can overcome all adversity. Through compassion and caring, we can create...hope."

The sequence came to an end as spectators saw 'footprints' 'pop up covering the patchwork quilt of the world. As they stepped across the world the voice-over addressed the audience, saying "South Africa, the cradle of humankind...where man took his first steps....We are all children of Africa... and now, we have returned home."

Africa United
SA's artist TKZEE began the next segment announcing: "South Africa is hosting the tournament on behalf of the entire African continent". He was joined by artist HHP as the calabash was dismantled. This followed by a homage performance to the six African teams that qualified for the World Cup. The voice-over set the scene: "Legend has it that a magical tree grew too big and fell from heaven, landing in Africa with its roots in the air. The mighty baobab, giver of life and symbol of strength represents Africa's six participating countries."

Following the conclusion of the voice-over, from all directions six portions of a single stylized baobab tree were carried in and erected on centre stage. Each piece was decorated in bright colours representing one of the six participating African countries. Aptly the next artist to be introduced was Khaled, Algeria's Afro-pop musician. During his performance 120 dancers delighted the crowds with an energetic performance.

Next, from Ghana, the magic of Osibisa, performed 'Sunshine Day' alongside South Africa's jazz legend, the grandfather of the townships, Bra Hugh Masakela. During the performance two dance troupes were introduced, The Ensemble Koteba D'Abidjan from Cote D'Ivoire and the Ballet Nationale du Cameroon. It was then Nigerian's Femi Kuti's turn who sang, "Bang Bang Bang".

The World United
The final segment introduced crowd pleasers, international legend, R. Kelly and the local favourites, Soweto Spiritual Singers. Following the artists, a group of 370 youngsters gathered downstage to spell - in cloth soccer balls - the names of the 32 finalists of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in alphabetical order with South Africa announced last, surrounded by children carrying the flags of the other 176 countries not playing in the tournament. The cast then reconfigured to arrange the flags of the finalists representing the six Confederation groups. Within the group 288 youngsters re-formed and created an impression of the tournament logo.

As the cast played off, a final voice-over addressed the audience thanking them for joining the Opening Ceremony and welcoming them to the 19th FIFA World Cup, as the Silver Falcons aerobatic team roared overhead in a final vuvuzela-shaped bomb-burst.

Fast Facts:
  • Over 15,000 meals were served to the buildup of the ceremony for all involved
  • 11 local schools were involved
  • 700 school children were a part of the ceremony
  • The VWV Till Dawn consortium began it's the creative pitching to the Local Organising Committee in April 2008
  • The VWV Till Dawn Consortium won the bid over a very large pool of 46 contenders
  • 1,581 cast including local school children, artists, dancers, musicians and performers
  • The lager-than-life beetle was designed by Roger Titley, animatronic designer made famous with 'Creatures'
  • Costumes were designed by Nkhensani Nkosi of Stonedcherrie
  • Stage and prop design was by James Macnamara of JMD.

11 Jul 2010 09:54