Historic cricket ground transformed into fan fest

Last Updated: Jun 09, 2010, 10:29 AM IST

Port Elizabeth (South Africa): Died in the wool cricket traditionalists should avoid the historic St George`s Park ground at all costs over the next month as the venerable venue is turned into FIFA`s World Cup fanfest site in Port Elizabeth.

Gone are the crease and wickets, stumps and scoreboard, and in their place an array of beer tents and the World Cup`s largest `big` screen, a 75 square metre monster.

Up to 25,000 World Cup revellers are expected on a daily basis as Port Elizabeth and the other 2010 host cities seek to emulate the success of fan fests at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

St George`s Park is steeped in sporting folklore.

It was the venue for the first Test ever to be played in South Africa, the last Test before South Africa`s expulsion from international cricket, the first ever Test series win over Australia and the first Test with the resumption of `normal` cricket after the end of apartheid.

It was also host to the first rugby test played in South Africa, and home to the country`s first bowls club in 1882.

For cricket anoraks the first Test ever staged was South Africa v England on March 12-13, 1889 - with an eight-wicket win for the visitors after South Africa had won the toss and elected to bat.

The sixth oldest cricket ground in the world was being readied Tuesday for the latest chapter in its history.

On Friday and then every day until the July 11 final the venue in the heart of Port Elizabeth will open its doors to football fans from all corners of the globe.

"This is a perfect location for a World Cup fan fest," Jason Stone, deputy Fan Fest director, told AFP on Tuesday.

"Much of the infrastructure is here already, like the 17,000 seater stands.”

"We`ve installed four beer tents (one at the quaint `Duckpond End of the ground), we`ve got the giant screen, and we`ve got some star acts lined up to keep the fans entertained before and between matches.”

"It`s a mammoth operation, including security personnel we have a workforce of around 500 people to handle a maximum crowd of 25,000.”

"As entry is free it`s hard to predict precisely how many we`re expecting but with teams like England who have a huge following playing in Port Elizabeth it should be fun."

With the emphasis on enjoyment Stone said there would be a zero tolerance policy put in place for anyone trying to bring in a firearm - gun possession being legal in South Africa.

"If anyone is found with a firearm at the entrance they will be asked to leave it at home before entering the enclosure."

Bureau Report

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