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Jan 1, 2004
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The Penny Arcade
NELSON MANDELA pulled out of the opening ceremony of the World Cup today following the death of his great-granddaughter in a car crash.

Zenani Mandela, 13, was killed on the way home from last night's Soweto concert heralding the launch of the tournament, which is being held in Africa for the first time.

Mr Mandela, 91, was expected to take some part in today's opening day festivities, although his family had been worried about his health.

A spokesman for the South African organising committee said: "Mr Nelson Mandela this morning learned of the tragic death in an accident of his great-granddaughter, Zenani Mandela.

"It would therefore be inappropriate for him to personally attend the Fifa World Cup opening celebrations.

"We are sure that South Africans and people all over the world will stand in solidarity with Mr Mandela and his family in the aftermath of this tragedy."

Zenani, who celebrated her 13th birthday on June 9, was one of the anti-apartheid icon's nine great-grandchildren.

She died in a one-car accident and no one else was injured.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation said in a statement: "The family has asked for privacy as they mourn this tragedy."

Tummi Shai, a police spokeswoman, said that a case of probable homicide - not unusual in traffic accidents where negligence is suspected - had been opened.

South Africa has been enjoying a carnival atmosphere during the build-up to the World Cup, with fans from the 32 competing nations flying in from across the globe.

Locals believe their team, known as "Bafana Bafana", can lift the trophy.

The team have never progressed beyond the group stage but they will be cheered on by a nation in the grip of football fever.

Many believe the vuvuzela, the plastic trumpets which make a noise like a herd of charging elephants, will be their secret weapon.

Last night's pre-tournament concert featured a host of international stars including Colombian pop star Shakira and US chart-toppers The Black Eyed Peas.

South African president Jacob Zuma also took to the stage and thanked South Africans for the welcome they have given World Cup fans, and called on them "to show the warmness for the whole duration of the tournament".

Before today's first match - between the host country and Mexico - 1581 performers will take part in an opening ceremony broadcast around the world in more than 200 countries.

In South Africa, ticketless fans will head to the Fan Fests at venues around the country to watch on giant screens.

And back in the UK London mayor Boris Johnson will host a party in Trafalgar Square where the opening ceremony will also be screened.

Johnson said: "Throughout the world, anticipation and excitement are reaching fever pitch as the master exponents of the beautiful game come together in thrilling competition.

"So vuvuzelas at the ready - here's to South Africa and a glorious World Cup!"

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has also wished the England team good luck for the competition.

England's first group match takes place tomorrow against the USA in Rustenburg.

Thousands of travelling England supporters have made their way to South Africa, although many have stayed away because of the high cost of flights and accommodation and fears over safety.

Back home nearly four million fans will flock to the pub to watch the match, according to a ComRes poll commissioned by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA).

The poll predicted a £35million sales boost from the game with an extra nine million pints of beer sold.

After a highly successful qualifying campaign under manager Fabio Capello there are high hopes the team could end 44 years of hurt and lift the trophy for the first time since 1966.

But warm-up matches against Mexico and Japan proved less than inspiring and captain Rio Ferdinand will sit out the tournament after sustaining an injury in his first training session in South Africa.