Two Babies and a Stadium: the bystander’s guide to the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium

There is nothing worse than an elephant in the room, right?


So let’s get it out the way before I go on. Because, if elephants are what you want to talk about, then you’re in the wrong place. Pachyderms are not up for discussion, no matter the color.


In fact, if you believe you are seeing a white elephant, consider that you may actually be seeing pink ones, and cut back on the wine already. Or is that the whine?

pink elephants

All righty then. Now that delusions are out of the way let’s get down to the subject of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

Of course Port Elizabeth needs it. Because:


pics  Sport24, HeraldLive

The old one is a mess. And it’s in a flood zone and there’s no hope, really. So mourn.


And move on.

Luckily, the World Cup came along and our city got a Stadium Reboot.


pic NelsonMandelaBay

The construction of the stadium started in 2007.


pic credit The Hubs

How do I know this, you may ask? (Other than a simple Google Search?) Well. I had two babies under two in 2007 and The Hubs (also known at the father of those babies), was on the construction team. (Who worked night and day to get it done, on time, under grueling scheduling demands.)

So, y’all. Let’s support that stadium (emotionally and with our ticket purchases), because not only did we all pay for it with our municipal rates, I paid for it with my solo parenting back (aches from carrying two babies at once), sweat and tears.

For good measure, here’s a few random facts about the stadium you might not know:

1.  The Lead Architect was a Woman

I know you want to see all the lovely Architectural features Can you feel the girl power?


2. The team had to learn Rope Access skills 

How else were they going to build that roof?

The Hubs was thrilled. He and his colleagues learned to ascend with jumars, abseil down, and not fall off in order to inspect the roof.

DSC_3550DSC_3501IMG_6445  DSC_3551

3. On the subject of The Roof

The steel sections were manufactured in Kuwait (Spare a thought for the welders who welded them at temperatures that can spike at around 40C.)

The white ‘fabric’ part is made of PTFE which is an acronym for the chemical polytetrafluoroethylene. Another form of it has the trademark TEFLON. (You can store that information in your back pocket for an awkward lull in dinner party conversation.)


pics The Hubs

4. They built it a little bit like Lego (Don’t tell The Hubs I said that, see?)

The raker beams, which are staircase like concrete things

375raker beams

pics The Hubs;


1.  Precast, (on site at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium)

2.  Lifted into place by a crane

3. Topped by risers, which are these:


pic pre-cast.prg

4. And put together (like Lego, but not really)


under raker beams


5.  A Vomitory isn’t about nausea

Vomitory is  my favorite stadium word. It’s such an evocative word. It’s from the Latin Vomitorium, which describes an architectural feature of the Roman Amphitheatre. Today, it refers to those openings from which the crowds and the players flow out onto the stands and the field.


pic The Hubs

6. The Rugby

If you are still feeling sad about Saturday, reflect that South Africa beat New Zealand 18-5 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on 20 August 2011. Since then, the Springboks have only beaten the All Blacks once, at Ellis Park.

Here’s a little video to pep you up. WRN- Tri Nations ’11- Game 5- RSAvNZL

Please remember to take note of the lovely stadium as you watch and feel better.

And don’t forget the four years of IRB 7’s hosted at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, tripling the attendance from the previous host city, before SARU moved the event to Cape Town.


And then there were The Kings in the Super Rugby tournament. I, personally, was emotionally invested and very proud of them and their efforts.


7. There isn’t a bad seat in the house

At the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium you can see from every seat. There isn’t a dodgy one in a corner where they joined an existing grandstand to another one when the Union had some money. Or a weird pole or supporting column that obstructs your view because a roof was put on after the fact. Or a safety rail that completely obstructs your view of the try line. (Sorry Newlands. I’m talking about YOU.)

Even those err, white seats (the toilets) are great. Granted, they have no view, but they have no queue either. The 2010 brigade built enough of them, even for the ladies. The misogynistic stadium builders of yesteryear who built stadia with ample men’s rooms and like, two ladies loos? What was that?


pic The Hubs

So let’s rejoice in our purpose built stadium, PE peeps. It’s a wonderful place that people of all ages, interests and backgrounds can enjoy. And let’s hope that the next time the All Blacks come to town, the Springboks achieve the same winning result.

For more info and pictures,go to  Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium

  One thought on “Two Babies and a Stadium: the bystander’s guide to the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium

  1. July 27, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    raise your hands and cheer for PE and their special stadium 🙂

  2. July 28, 2015 at 4:18 am

    I have similar feelings about Moses Mabhida; I wrote the first ever story about the new stadium going to be built, covered the demolition of the old one, covered most of the milestones at the new one, interviewed Mabhida’s daughter on the eve of the stadium’s opening, watched the first ever game there, etc. The stadiums do get some flack (often rightly so) but not all of them are “white elephants”. If it wasn’t for MMS, Durban would have almost no chance of getting the Commonwealth Games, for example. So I get you, wholeheartedly.

    • July 28, 2015 at 8:53 pm

      Hi Matthew thanks for your comments. MMS looks like an incredible facility, it must have been an interesting journey through the phases. Cape Town Stadium is also outstanding yet under valued. I really feel most of these stadiums have opened doors of opportunity for SA, as you mentioned. I’ve seen in Australia they host stair climbing/fitness series events in stadiums (stands not field) during off season which also might be viable here.

  3. Valerie Dunne
    July 28, 2015 at 7:41 am

    Enjoyed reading this ! Will look at the stadium with new eyes next time . Well written !

    • July 28, 2015 at 8:55 pm

      Thanks Val. If you take your usual convention trip this year you will experience it!

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