Thousands rock Soweto at World Cup concert

Thu Jun 10, 2010 2:38pm EDT
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By Serena Chaudhry and Agnieszka Flak

SOWETO, South Africa (Reuters) - Thousands of people rocked Orlando Stadium in South Africa's biggest township on Thursday, singing in harmony at the official World Cup concert on the eve of the world's most watched sporting event.

Concert-goers clapped and cheered amidst almost freezing temperatures as footballers, local musicians and international singing stars took to the stage, the first time such a music concert has been held as part of the World Cup opening events.

"This is great. This concert, the World Cup. When you drive down the road, you can feel it's changing us...Sports and music are a universal language that everyone understands," said 28-year-old Neo Baloyi.

U.S. group Black Eyed Peas kicked off the concert, which was broadcast live around the world, with their chart-topping hit "Where is the love."

Other stars expected to perform include R Kelly, Alicia Keys, Angelique Kidjo and Vusi Mahlasela. Colombian pop star Shakira will sing the official World Cup anthem "Waka Waka (This time for Africa)" with local group Freshly Ground.

Children and the elderly alike waved South African flags and sang "Shosholoza," the popular local tune sung mostly at soccer matches.

The scene in the 30,000 capacity stadium was reminiscent of 1995, when South Africa, recently free from decades of apartheid rule, won the rugby World Cup. The tournament was widely seen as uniting a country long divided along racial lines.

"This is history in the making. Only 15 years ago we were unsure of our identity, but here we stand as one nation. I'm very excited, I'm very happy to be here, I love the vibe," said 44-year-old Vanitha Govender, who works for Standard Bank.   Continued...

<p>Fans attend the opening concert for the 2010 World Cup at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg June 10, 2010. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti</p>