The party has started in Johannesburg
In just a few hours, it had all changed. A few minutes before noon, and thousands of vuvuzelas sounded in neighbourhoods all across Johannesburg and presumably, out across the country, a swirling green and yellow hornets' nest of sound and motion that will doubtless become one of the iconic images of the first World Cup in Africa.
At Norwood Mall, where we were taking care of logistics - Internet cards, check; cellphone, check; and on to accreditation at Soweto's Soccer City stadium, all of it under the fog of a typical first day on the ground - one woman coming in for her morning shopping watched the scene. "What are they going to do on Friday?" she wondered, as this nationwide pep rally broke out a little over 48 hours before South Africa starts it all off with an opening match against Mexico.
On the road to Soweto with Star colleague Cathal Kelly and Canwest World Cup veteran George Johnston of Calgary, it was the same story. Crowds lined the streets in the colours of the Bafana Bafana home team, waving and blowing on their vuvuzelas - or whatever they had at hand, one woman rolling up her newspaper as an impromptu horn as we stopped for a stoplight (or as they call them here, a robot.
Charles, our taxi driver, took us on a detour by Nelson Mandela's house, a few flags fluttering on the walls. He recalled similar scenes around the 1995 Rugby World Cup, South Africa's victory with Mandela on hand to watch in a Springboks No. 6 jersey and cap.
"Nobody slept that day. That's what I like about the games - they unite people. We forget the differences."
Nearing Soccer City stadium, we were stopped by hundreds of marching, singing, dancing South Africans on their way to a rehearsal of Friday's opening ceremony.
"This is not planned," said Charles, shaking his head. There was nothing to do but wait listen to the car radio reports - of the Jo'burg CBD brought to a standstill by huge game of street futbol; of a trio of journalists robbed Tuesday night in their hotel outside of town; of whether Madiba will attend the opener (not confirmed yet) - and finally give up and hoof it the rest of the way.
Soccer City is not just the name of a stadium, it turns out. If this is just the warmup, what on earth are they going to do on Friday?