THE Afcon opening ceremony was less than an hour away from being cancelled due to torrential rain, according to event producer Hlubi Kwebulana.
There was a danger of more injuries to cast members – after one of the slated performers, Grammy-winning Malian songstress Oumou Sangare, broke her leg in a separate incident. Sangare, who is in a stable condition at the Milpark Hospital, was replaced by the show's musical director, Sibongile Khumalo.
The cast of more than 500 was chaperoned by choreographer Somizi Mhlongo and mass- movement charting choreographers Gina Martinez and Roxana Smith. Kwebulana said: "We were on standby [to cancel the show], because we didn't want to complicate things further. Half an hour before the show, it was still coming down really hard. Our fears were that if it continued to rain that hard, it would become a health and safety issue."
He said many fans opted to find shelter, which made the National Stadium look emptier than it actually was.
Even Martinez was on tenterhooks, posting a tweet saying: "Opening Ceremony ShowDay for #AFCON, please don't rain South Africa, our props won't hold out & the groundcloth will be oh so slippy 4 cast! [sic]."
But the downpour abated, and the 33-minute ceremony went ahead – with mixed reactions from viewers on Twitter – and even top fashion designer Gavin Rajah weighed in on it.
Rajah tweeted: "Refuse to watch this #AfconOpeningCeremony drivel when thousands of children still starve in our country!"
When asked how he related to starving children, Rajah later added: "Do you think that amateurish production was done for free? Seriously if you can't make the connection I'm a bit concerned ..."
DJ Black Coffee tweeted: "Mhhhhh ... Was that a 2013 or a 1996 CAF opening?"
He followed that up, saying: "Musically it didn't reflect the #Africa I live in today #my2centsworthofthoughts."
All the performers' vocals were also pre-recorded to preserve sound quality.
Kwebulana said he was not producing the closing ceremony, and when asked about rumours that Ina Ethe singer Zonke was signed up as one of the performers, he said the list had not been finalised and no artist had been contracted yet.