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Cape Town live: Switching on the festive lights in Adderley Street

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29/11/2009: Switching on the festive lights in Adderley Street, Cape Town

Switching on the Christmas lights in Adderley Street happens every year in Cape Town. This year however, this was even more special, because it is somewhat related to the World Cup: The best ever light display for the festive season is all about football.

So we’re heading to town, as in addition to the lights there will be a stage concert at the Heerengracht Circle and a carnival parade all along Adderley Street. It sounds all very promising, so we get there for the afternoon to take it all in. It is also an unofficial demonstration that Cape Town is ready for the World Cup and we’re curious to see how that looks like in practise.

Traffic is bad and there’s no chance of finding parking. We end up far away from the spectacle, but we don’t mind a short walk. Coming from the opposite side we’re walking down Adderley Street to get to the stage.

On the way a curious image presents itself to me: People sit by the side of the road in groups waiting to be entertained. Entire families pitch up with a picnic, folding chairs, warm clothes and blankets. It seems this is where the parade is meant to come through in a couple of hours and these folks are well prepared. Strategically placed in view of the giant screens, they’re celebrating a family day out.

These LED screens are what reminds me of the World Cup Fan Fests, although they look somewhat small for the incredible construction that has been put up to hoist them. But we don’t want to see the action on a screen if we’re so close to watching the real deal.

However, that turns out to be tricky, as for safety measures they fenced in the Heerengracht Fountains and there is only a small passage to enter. It took us ages to get in only to realise we’re still far from the stage and the bands are not our type of music.

As we decide to retreat, we get the full on African experience of a grand scale street festival: They simply have no respect for personal space. Yes, I have been at events where it gets busy and people get squashed together. But this was a notch closer than what I ever had experienced. It seemed as if people enjoyed filling in the tiny gaps with their body weight. No consideration of patiently waiting for the bottle neck to clear, the heaving masses pushed forwards and sideways, even though this was clearly to no avail. When I was just considering simply lifting my feet and going for the surprise where this crowd would shove me, we were through and released. A bit dishevelled we made our way back to the safety of our car and as much personal space as we wanted.

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