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And the city to avoid ...
by Paul Kennedy, December 3rd, 2009 7AM



[WORLD CUP 2010 DRAW] Teams will be anxiously waiting to see not only whom they will play at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa but also where they will play. For players and fans alike, South Africa 2010 will present unique challenges because of the distances between venues, its diverse climate and differences in elevation. A city to avoid?

The smallest World Cup venue with a population of only 140,000, Polokwane presents all sorts of challenges.

First of all, its location. Bordering Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana, Polokwane is the most isolated of the nine World Cup venues. It's three and a half hours by car from Johannesburg and 17 and a half hours by car from Cape Town (teams A4 and C3 will have to make the Cape Town-Polokwane or Polokwane-Cape Town trek for back-to-back games).

Polokwane is located at 4,300 feet above sea level, making it one of five venues located at about 4,000 or more feet above sea level. (Johannesburg, Rustenburg, Mangaung/Bloemfontein and Tshwane/Pretoria are the others.)

Finally, Polokwane has some of the coldest winter temperatures, reaching as low as 40 degrees in winter (our summer is the Southern Hemisphere's winter).

Polokwane will host four first-round games. Because of the lack of accommodations, many fans will have to arrive on game day from other locations.

The city has an unemployment rate of 41 percent, and the government has spent more than $400 million on the construction of 45,000-seat Peter Mokaba Stadium and infrastructure work.

Tshwane/Pretoria, Mangaung/Bloemfontein and Polokwane should be the coldest venues, though temperatures can also approach freezing at night in Johannesburg.

Located in the foothills of the Magaliesburg mountains near tourist destination Sun City, Rustenburg is the other high-altitude venue, though its temperatures are usually milder.

Located near Mozambique and Swaziland and the gateway to the Kruger game park, Nelspruit is the second smallest World Cup venue after Polokwane.

The other three venues are all located on the coast: Cape Town, site of Friday's World Cup draw, Durban and Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth.

WORLD CUP 2010 VENUES (by altitude):
Johannesburg (Soccer City; capacity: 94,700)
altitude: 5,750
Johannesburg (Ellis Park; capacity: 61,000)
altitude: 5,750
Rustenburg (Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace; capacity: 42,000)
altitude: 4,920 feet
Mangaung/Bloemfontein (Free State Stadium; capacity: 48,000)
altitude: 4,600 feet
Polokwane (Peter Mokaba Stadium; capacity: 45,000)
altitude: 4,300 feet
Tshwane/Pretoria (Loftus Versfeld Stadium; capacity: 50,000)
altitude: 3,980 feet
Nelspruit (Mbombela Stadium; capacity: 46,000)
altitude: 2,165 feet
Cape Town (Green Point; capacity: 70,000)
altitude: sea level
Durban (Moses Mabhida Stadium: 70,000)
altitude: sea level
Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth (Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium; capacity: 48,000)
altitude: sea level


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