Durban - The parties have already started and the hotels are packing them in as 50 000 racegoers prepare for Saturday’s big R4.25m Vodacom Durban July.
And although weather forecasters predict canopies of cloud will cover the city for the day, with a cold south-easterly wind gusting across Durban, there will still be the usual buzz in the air as “July Fever” kicks in and the fun begins at Africa’s greatest horse racing event.
This year’s theme is “The Leader of the Pack” and it is on the cards that the decor at the Greyville racecourse’s hospitality suites, the marquees - including four double-deckers - and picnic sites, will feature plenty of hearts, clubs, spades, diamonds - and maybe a few jokers.
Organisers have been jacking up the various venues all week to make the sport of kings in Durban a day to remember.
Thousands of metres of draping, and truckloads of flowers, luxurious furniture, big screen TVs, and dining accessories have been brought in.
One company said on Thursday it had spent R1 million on food and decor alone.
And One Stop Hospitality, which will be hosting 1 100 guests, has brought in six kilometres of fairy lights to decorate its venue.
One of the 139 staff on duty on Saturday has the sole task of pouring champagne for the guests. The event is set to trigger an economic boom estimated at R450m, with betting alone accounting for about R100m.
Phillip Sithole, the head of Durban Tourism, said the annual event created 940 temporary or long-term jobs, with the tills ringing in hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants and pubs and with the transport and entertainment sectors also benefiting.
Charles Preece, the operations manager of the East Coast branch of the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (Fedhasa), said the beachfront hotels were fully booked.
Sithole pointed out that the Vodacom Durban July was a multitude of lifestyle experiences which extended from a week before the main event to a day after.
“The city is buzzing with fashion shows, music conferences and various gigs throughout the city and beyond,” he said.
The ‘Ultimate Durban July Pool Party’, with nine hours of non-stop entertainment, started the fun today at uShaka Marine World, where visitors were invited to bring along their designer swimsuits for the “coolest pool party in Durban”. (Tickets are available online and at the door).
The pool party has been organised by Durban Tourism, uShaka Marine World and is supported by Metro FM.
Durban Tourism will also host “a huge delegation” of trade and media from Nigeria, Botswana and Swaziland, giving them a “full experiential tour” of the city for four days.
As punters continue to wonder which horse will win the crown, astrologist Nikhil Gulati has predicted that Marinaresco will be first past the finishing post, followed by Black Arthur, St Tropez, Abashiri and Solid Speed.
Well-known Durban psychic counsellor and fortune teller, MG, believes Bela-Bela will be first, then Samurai Blade, French Navy, Dynamic/Mac De Lago and Trophy Wife.