The FIFA 2010 World Cup launched Thursday evening with the official "kick-off" concert. The excitement generated by the concert was dampened Friday morning as South Africans learned of the death of elder statesman Nelson Mandela's great-granddaughter in a motor vehicle accident.
Tens of thousands celebrated at Orlando Stadium in Soweto where Colombian singer Shakira sang the official anthem of the 2010 World Cup along with South African group Freshly Ground.
South African president Jacob Zuma made a brief appearance with FIFA's Sepp Blatter. The pre-dominantly South African crowd went wild when Mr. Zuma articulated the country's joy at hosting the World Cup.
"I [would like] to say South Africa is very happy to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup," said President Zuma.
Mr Zuma applauded his fellow citizens for showing a warm welcome to the 300,000 visitors attending the event.
"I want to thank you and also ask you to show this warmness for the whole duration of the tournament until they leave South Africa," said Mr. Zuma.
The South Africa leader also emphasized that this is an event for the continent of Africa.
"Africa is hosting this tournament, South Africa is a stage, South Africa is rocking, is cool," he said.
The concert was also aimed at publicizing a World Cup related education initiative known as 1Goal Education, which FIFA and South Africa hope will ensure a basic education for as many as 72 million African children. The concert was interspersed with video clips to highlight and illustrate how important it is to educate children, one in particular illustrated the difference outcomes for educated and non-educated girls.
"One goal, education for all; one goal education for all," said a 1Goal announcement.
Renowned South African trumpeter, 71-year-old Hugh Masekela wowed the crowd with a rendition of Grazing in the Grass.
But it was the contribution of South African folk singer Vusi Mahlasela who had the crowd rocking Orlando stadium to its foundations with his rendition of Say Africa.
It was left to Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu to remind the crowd that thanks were due to former president and fellow laureate Nelson Mandela without whose efforts it is unlikely the World Cup would have come to South Africa.
"I think we have got to pay a wonderful tribute to a man to whom we owe all of this, he is in Johannesburg and if we make a loud enough noise he will hear us and so we say, halala Nelson Mandela," said Desmond Tutu.
Mr Mandela's family made it clear that despite his frail health he hoped to make a brief appearance at the opening game between South Africa and Mexico to share his joy with the country. But tragically Mr Mandela's joy was severely tempered by the death of his 13-year-old great-granddaughter Zenani Mandela as she was traveling home from the concert.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation says 91-year-old Mr Mandela is mourning with his family and will now not attend the opener. The foundation asked for understanding and urged all to allow the family to mourn in private.
Despite the tragic accident, excitement is in the air as South Africa hosts the World Cup. Thursday night's joyous concert in Soweto featured rising South Africa star Lira who sang an old Miriam Makeba favorite, Pata Pata.