South Africa was popping Thursday as soccer fans poured into the streets on the eve of the official opening of the 2010 World Cup of soccer, the first to be held on African soil since the tournament was founded in 1930.
VOA's Scott Bobb reported that international and local musicians, dancers and artists from across the world were holding final rehearsals in Johannesburg for Friday's opening ceremony at the giant Soccer City stadium.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara - the three principals in Harare's fractious unity government - were on their way to South Africa late Thursday for the grand opening of the world's biggest soccer showcase.
Reports said the three power-sharing partners would engage President Jacob Zuma on the sidelines of the Cup about the many contentious issues which continue to in their power sharing arrangement.
Zuma foreign relations adviser Lindiwe Zulu told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that one of the three principals has requested Zuma to meet with them in Johannesburg, but said Mr. Zuma had not committed.
Minister of State Gorden Moyo, attached to Mr. Tsvangirai's office, said his boss hopes Mr. Zuma can meet with the principals to resolve lingering disputes over implementation of their 2008 Global Political Agreement.
The long-anticipated 2010 World Cup kicks off Friday with Group A host South Africa facing Mexico while in Cape town Uruguay will play France. The buildup has created a carnival-like atmosphere even north of the Limpopo River in Zimbabwe with business coming to a virtual standstill in Harare and other communities.
Though most of the world will be focused on the narrowing down to the title from 32 teams to the two finalists, the economic and social stakes are also important. South Africa has invested billions in infrastructure improvements ranging from stadiums to a new airport rail link. Workers have benefited, but the post-Cup return to normal life in South Africa with its many social problems could come as a shock as the euphoria wears off.
But for the moment, all that mattered this week was the month of matches ahead.
For a look at the football frenzy in Southern Africa VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere turned to commentator Omega Sibanda and Zimbabwean soccer fan Joy Mabenge, a political analyst based in South Africa.
Mabenge said Johannesburg on Thursday was in the grip of a festive atmosphere.