Ten interesting facts about Johannesburg

We’re rounding up the host cities in anticipation for the Soccer World Cup. Here are a few interesting facts about SA’s largest city, Johannesburg

1. As one of the world’s leading financial centres as well as the economic and financial hub of South Africa, Johannesburg, Jozi or the pulse of Mzansi as it is also referred to produces 16% of SA’s gross domestic product. The origin of our currency’s name also originated in the area – taken from the Witwatersrand – the ridge upon which the city is built and where most of South Africa’s gold deposits were found.

2. The suburbs of Johannesburg have been the backdrop to many of the foibles of our country’s past. Sharpeville Massacre on March 21, 1960 (Human Rights Day), the Soweto Student uprising on June 16, 1976 (Youth Day) as well as the Rivonia Treason Trial between 1963 and 1964. Visit the Apartheid Museum to delve deeply into the historical changes in SA or tap into its vibrancy at the Sophia Town Heritage Centre which offers visitors a 45-min guide tour at a cost of R45 and a 1-hour and 45-min walking tour which incorporates the historical surroundings of the area for R60 per person.

3. It goes without saying that we’re big on human rights in SA – which makes The Constitutional Court, the highest court of our land established after the 1994 democratic elections so important. Located in Johannesburg in an acclaimed new building at Constitution Hill, is where you’ll find 11 judges presiding over and protecting our human rights. But this just one of the 150 heritage sites you’ll find in the area, half of which are national monuments.

4. Johannesburg’s thriving new cultural precinct, Newtown is where you can visit the World Renowned Market Theatre and South African Breweries World of Beer which receives almost 50 000 visitors annually – yes we are known to be a nation of beer drinkers – what can we say? Take a WOB tour Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10h00 to 18h00.

5. Two of the city’s stadiums will play host to upcoming Soccer World Cup tournament matches. Soccer City, Africa’s own calabash, has a capacity for 98 000 spectators and has been nominated for the Fulton Award, held every two years to honour top construction companies for remarkable structures they’ve built. Coca Cola Park on the other hand can host 62 000 spectators and even offers Braai facilities on the north side of the stadium.

6. Top Gear’s Jeremy, James and Richard like giving their engines a bit of an annual rev on Africa soil with the MPH Motoring show which has been hosted in Johannesburg for the past four years. The Johannesburg leg saw 59 000 people attending the show and a further 36 000 attending the Cape Town leg (recently added in 2010) – in total the SA attendance accounted for a third of the total worldwide audience of 350 000 (London, Hong Kong, Dublin, Amsterdam, Birmingham, Auckland and Sydney).

7. The city’s OR Tambo airport is the busiest in Africa, handling an estimated 18-million passengers a year. Its recently refurbished international terminal received the first passenger flight of the Airbus A380 – which has a 538 passenger capacity. View the Gallery here.

8. Johannesburg has been rebuilt four times in the span of one century. First, it was a tented camp, then a town of tin shanties, then of four-storey Edwardian brick buildings and finally, a city of modern skyscrapers.

9. The rotten levels of crime in the city are no secret. However, in an attempt to put its best foot forward when hosting parts of the 2010 FIFA World Cup , the city of Johannesburg has enlisted New York’s former mayor Rudy Giuliani’s help after he dealt with very similar problems in New York City back in the ‘90s.

10. Johannesburg’s daily and annual traffic is legendary. But it is the city with the highest number of highways from everywhere in South Africa which not only makes it an easy to reach destination – but getting lost is a definite possibility. Highways include N1 from Cape Town and Harare in Zimbabwe, N3 from Durban, N4 from Nelspruit and the Kruger National Park, as well as Botswana, N12 from Kimberley and Potchefstroom, N14 from Upington and Namibia

Selene Brophy

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