The usually-relaxing alarm on my phone seemed to explode into life at 5:30am, just quarter of an hour before we’d decided the previous evening that we would leave for the airport. Armed with flight numbers and arrival times, we made our way back to O.R. Tambo International to pick up Valeria and Tim from Witters in Germany, Ito from Agence Shot in Japan, and UK colleagues Joe and Ben from Back Page Images (BPI). With the first due in at 7am (Ito) and the last at 8:35am (Ben and Joe), it made unfortunate sense to leave this early, purely from our memories of last year, when we once left for the airport at 7.30am, only to be greeted by a wall of traffic as far as the eye could see. That day it took us over an hour just to get from Randburg into the motorway; a journey that should really only take 10 minutes. Rush hour around Johannesburg is dreadful, we made a group decision to sacrifice a decent night’s sleep in order to avoid waiting in gridlock.
As we waited for different flights to land, we made our way to the airport’s Mugg & Bean, a popular cafe chain in South Africa. A full English breakfast went down a treat for some, whilst others opted for a waffle with syrup…I won’t say who had what.
By about 10am, everyone had made it through and we were ready to go. We decided to drive straight to the Soccer City stadium, where we could go to the Accreditation Centre to pick up our tournament credentials. As we approached the stadium, buildings and land around it began to pass by and then the colossal stadium emerged from between them, standing bold and solid, in the guise of a Kalabash, a rust-coloured African cooking pot. Except this cooking pot will play host to the opening match of the World Cup on Friday, in front of 95,000 people and millions more around the world on television.
We made our way to the Accreditation Centre, and joined the back of 1 of 2 large queues leading into a white tent full of FIFA staff sending photographers, journalists and broadcasters from desk to another through various stages of administration before finally picking up our finished passes 90 minutes later.
We then took the opportunity to head back to the Lodge, at around 2pm, where we grounded the car for the 3rd time in 2 days as we pulled in…something needed to be done about that, but it would have to wait for the morning.