Saturday, June 12

Cup fever

World Cup fever has taken hold across London once again. The quadrennial tournament literally kicked off yesterday following a colourful, vibrant opening ceremony at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg. Garry and I saw this spectacular venue back in January while the final touches were still being made. It’s an impressive building. South Africa has clearly spent a lot of money preparing for the World Cup as Africa’s first ever host of the tournament. Since 2004 South Africa has spent about 40bn rand (£3.55bn) on stadiums, transport infrastructure and upgrading airports.

Yesterday more than 94,000 were at the venue, while hundreds of millions worldwide watched the live broadcast. The saturation coverage has prompted the installation of large outdoor screen across London, including one on the doorstep of my office. They were still applying finishing touches to this screen at lunchtime yesterday. Apparently, builders were focused on having it completed for the inaugural competition game at 1:00pm. Instead, its today’s game, England vs the USA, that everyone wanted to be ready for.

The British Beer and Pub Association expects nearly four million fans to head to pubs and big public screens today. It estimates beer sales will be by £35 million as punters down an extra nine million pints. Supermarkets are also expecting their busiest day since Christmas as home viewers stock up. No doubt we’re in for a sea of flag waving, as was the fashion here four years ago. I’d already seen more than one car on the street flying England’s St George’s flagwith pride. The prime minister has even agreed fly the same flag over Downing Street for the duration of the World Cup.

As our office we set up a special viewing room for ardent football fans to indulge in sporting passion. The room was already in use during yesterday’s game between South Africa, and Mexico. The hosts held Mexico to a 1-1 draw. Tomorrow, Australia takes on Germany. No doubt we’ll have our television on at some point. New Zealand has also made it to the tournament for the first time since 1982. It’s first game, against Slovakia, kicks off on Tuesday. Game on!

UPDATE - June 13
South Africa held Mexico to an impressive one-all draw. Germany slammed Australia, beating the Socceroos 4-0.

UPDATE - June 15
New Zealand came from behind to score an equaliser goal during injury time. The resulting one-all draw gave the nation its first ever World Cup point.

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