It has been described as a ‘legacy to remember’ – the 19th FIFA World Cup, which was hosted by South Africa for the first time in 2010.

It will go down in history for not only showcasing incredible football but also for the enthusiasm, happiness and spirit beaming from communities, stadiums and television screens.

The Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace hosted six matches in the 2010 World Cup. Refurbishing the stadium, the second smallest in the tournament, was a race against time and other challenges to build a stage fit to host one of the most watched sports events on earth.

Opened in 1999 in the charming town of Rustenburg, the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace was built by and named after the local Bafokeng tribe, a royal remnant in modern-day South Africa. SMEC were appointed structural engineers to upgrade the stadium ahead of the 2010 World Cup, expanding capacity from 39,000 to 45,000.

“The timeframe was extremely tight for the concept and preliminary design,” says Marius Mostert, SMEC Technical Principal Urban Development. “The detailed design took approximately one year, and practical completion was achieved just one day before the first game was played on March 28, 2009.”

The 2010 World Cup was the first contemporary mega sporting event to be played on the African continent, and it was an honour have had such a close hand in making this a reality.

SMEC’s structural engineers used unique technology in the design phase through to execution. There were also several ‘firsts’ achieved compared with other notable stadiums around the world, including the use of permanent steel shutter forms for the raking beams and composite steel beams to increase the self-weight of the roof structure to prevent force reversal during high winds.

Every detail was carefully planned and strategically executed. For example, one of the complexities was the precision required to calculate the angles of the bracings that connect into the 32 nodes (or ‘knuckles’) around the stadium, which are each different from each other due to the elliptical shape.

“The bracings support the steel structure for the roof, which leads up to a high point in the centre and slopes down to the other ends,” Marius explains. “The erection process was extremely difficult and involved a scaffold platform up to 33m high.”

Working within and improving the existing structure was another challenge and the form finding process to accommodate the additional tier took considerable time to perfect, but ultimately produced an elegant interface between the old and the new structure. The result was an elliptically shaped stadium which was recognised for its technical excellence by the South African Institute of Steel Construction in 2009.

“The major team effort by all parties involved in this project has resulted in an extremely high level of workmanship, including such attention to detail as the internal shear studs being laid out in an identical pattern on each external column,” says Marius.

It is perhaps the simplest to the untrained mind by its apparent neat appearance. But the project displays some amazing technology in design and execution, with lots of firsts when compared with other stadia. And it is an all-South African team.

Judges’ comments on the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace Upgrade, Winner Technical Excellence, South African Institute of Steel Construction Awards 2009

The 2010 World Cup was the first contemporary mega sporting event to be played on the African continent, and it was an honour to have had such a close hand in making this a reality. But many games have been played at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace since the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The stadium is used to train local children in athletics, martial arts, netball, rugby and football. It is used as the home stadium for Premier Soccer League club, Platinum Stars. It is also home to the North-West Province’s rugby team, the Leopards, who participate in the Currie Cup rugby series.

We’re proud to have played a part in creating the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace of today, a space where families and communities can come together in the spirit of sportsmanship.

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