South Africa shivers during World Cup party

Glamorous Brazilians in skimpy bikinis are staple fare at the World Cup but in South Africa you're more likely to see fans wrapped up in scarves and gloves as the nation shivers.

Temperatures have plummeted to close to freezing at some games, giving a totally different feel to a tournament usually played in blazing summer tempeatures as players swap drinks bottles for gloves.

You have to go right back to Argentina in 1978 for the last World Cup held outside the summer months, since when football's showpiece has sizzled in the heat in hotspots such as Spain, Mexico and the United States.

The South African showpiece opened in Johannesburg last weekend in warm sunshine but since then cold weather has swept across this vast nation from the north right down to Cape Town on the southwest coast.

A Brazilian fan braves the cold on June 15 during the 2010 World Cup match Brazil vs.North Korea at at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg
A Brazilian fan braves the cold on June 15 during the 2010 World Cup match Brazil vs.North Korea at at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg

In high-altitude Bloemfontein, temperatures in the coming days are due to dip well below freezing with the South African Weather Service issuing an alert for very cold weather and a black frost.

In northern Rustenburg the plummeting mercury prompted hundreds of volunteers at the Royal Bafokeng stadium to muffle up for the New Zealand v Slovakia clash.

Bright sunshine during the day means England, based in Rustenburg, at the foot of the Magaliesberg mountains, have been training in conditions similar to those of an Alpine ski resort.

But Samuel Ntekile, a security guard at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus, had a warning for Wayne Rooney and his team-mates if they manage to stay in the tournament until the later stages.

"It's freezing now but it's going to get a lot colder," he said. "You ain't seen nothing yet."

AFP reporters have reported freezing fountains in the economic hub of Johannesburg, where it was bitingly cold for the Brazil v North Korea evening clash at the city's Ellis Park stadium.

FIFA said the mercury had dropped to three degrees Celsius (37 degrees Fahrenheit) an hour before kick-off, prompting some of the Brazilians, including Real Madrid star Kaka, to wear gloves.

At the Portugal v Ivory Coast clash in coastal Port Elizabeth one American journalist complained: "This is a lot colder than covering NHL. At least in ice hockey they equip you with hats and gloves."

One supporter, who only gave his name as Mas, made a 14-hour bus trip from his home in Durban for the game and said: "Me and my two friends have had to drink a couple of bottles of whiskey just to keep warm."

A race meeting Thursday at the city's Fairview racecourse was washed out due to heavy rains.

In Cape Town, night-time temperatures have dropped with snow on the top of the landmark Table Mountain though they are forecast to edge up in the coming days.

Defending champions Italy were forced to play through a chilly downpour during their opener against Paraguay, making conditions at the city's Green Point stadium slippery, with players having difficulty controlling the ball.

Meanwhile disaster teams mopped up on Wednesday after floods and a blaze hit more than 2,100 shack dwellers.

The teams were placed on high alert at the weekend for bad weather that saw heavy rains, gale force winds, very cold conditions, widespread snowfalls and rough seas, the city said in a statement.

"The city of Cape Town?s disaster response teams are out in full force assisting flood victims, while still ensuring that contingency plans can be activated for the duration of the 2010 FIFA World Cup," the statement said.

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