World Cup Temperatures bite
The 2010 FIFA World Cup kicked off last week and like the play, the weather too has had its highs and lows. The soccer spectacular began at Soccer City in pleasantly warm conditions recorded at 18°C, but by Bafana Bafana’s second game on Wednesday in Pretoria, the night temperature had dropped to a fridge like 0°C.
Although not as cold as freezing European and North American winters, temperatures in South Africa will be low enough to burst overseas fan’s expectations of a sunny and tropically hot Africa whatever the season.
The average summer highs of plus 30 degrees have been replaced with single digit lows, and in some cases temperatures have plummeted to below freezing, where short sleeved soccer tops have not be enough to keep out the evening chill.
Bloemfontein is probably the chilliest place to watch a game. Fans heading to this Free State city are cautioned to prepare for lows of up to -6°C, which is maybe why only one of the six group matches to be played there has been scheduled for a 20:30 kick-off.
FIFA.com says an average low of -2°C is expected from a day time high of 17 °C, but things might get colder if lows predicted by the South African Weather Service (SAWS) continue. If the night game on 25th June does record sub zero temperatures, the Swiss from the snowy slopes of The Alps will be better equipped than their South American opponents to cope with the cold. Honduras is hot and humid almost year-round, and with the average high temperature nationwide of 32°C and the average low of 20°C, few will have thought about thermal underwear.
In addition to their winter lows, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth are experiencing rainy days, which will add more weather misery to both fans and players. Monday night’s game between Italy and Paraguay at Cape Town’s magnificent Green Point Stadium was played in torrential rain, with the occasional hailstorm thrown in for good measure.
The 62,869 who attended the game will have been thankful for the 16mm thick panels of glass in the roof, designed to cover and protect fans from strong winds and rains, but many still got soaking wet. And with a weather forecast of very cold with snowfalls and black frost predicted for the Western and Eastern Cape, fans can expect worse to come.
Temperatures for the England v Algeria game in Cape Town on Friday are expected to hover around the 8°C mark, which is warm compared to their match in Rustenburg which barely rose above freezing. Still the first winter World Cup in over 30 years should suit the English, who are used to playing their football in the cold and rain. Back in the Algerian capital of Algiers, it is currently a warm and sunny 25°C.
The cold weather seems also to have taken some of the merchandisers by surprise. At the USA v England game in Rustenburg there were several ice cream stalls, but few brave enough to partake of the frozen varieties on offer, despite the Americans legendary love of the food.
Polokwane, in the Limpopo Provence, will host four games under its mostly clear afternoon skies and starry night. Last week Fifa.com predicted that all will be warm and sunny with lows of 4 °C and maximums of 20°C. They may have got the sunny bit right, but the fans that visited from Botswana might have been surprised to find that temperatures had dropped to -1°C.
Nelspruit in Mpumalanga has also been unusually cold, but fans who turn up to watch the evening clash between Australia and Serbia on June 23 can expect a minimum of around 5°C. This will be cool even for the Serbians who have come from summer highs in Belgrade of 27°C and the Australians whose current winter months are variable depending on location, but will have left behind average lows of 10-15°C in Sydney
In its advertising campaign, Durban boasts of being the warmest place to watch the World Cup, and the popular sea side resort enjoys average temperatures of around 16-25 °C all year round. The city’s warmth is reflected in the current maximum of 23°C, which will fall to a low of 11°C. That will be much more to the liking of the samba boys of Brazil who play their third game against Portugal at the venue on June 25 in a 4pm kick off.
The Brazilians took time to warm up in their first game in Johannesburg’s Ellis Park on Tuesday in freezing conditions, where five of the boys in yellow had to wear gloves to keep out the cold. They will have another night in the cold gold city on Sunday when they play the Ivory Coast, who will also not be amused by the wintery conditions, before they can thaw out in Durban.
They can look forward to much warmer conditions four years from now with the next World Cup being held in their own backyard. On the day that the tournament kicked off in Johannesburg, temperatures back home in Rio were recorded as a high of 25°C, only descending to a low of 12°C.
Perhaps the warmest and safest place to watch the late night action is on TV, tucked up in bed with a warming cup of tea at the ready.