By Natasha Joseph and Sapa
The Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament would pour an estimated R1-billion into South Africa's coffers over the next five weeks, President Kgalema Motlanthe said during the tournament's colourful opening ceremony on Saturday night.
Motlanthe addressed thousands of spectators at Sahara Park Newlands on Saturday night after the two opening matches of the tournament.
"The envisaged financial investment that will flow into South Africa over the next few weeks is expected to be about R1bn," Motlanthe said.
He said the IPL was providing R10m in scholarship funds to 300 students and 32 schools across South Africa.
Motlanthe hailed the tournament organisers' decision to select South Africa as the host nation as "a tremendous vote of confidence".
South Africa was selected to host the tournament less than a month ago.
"It (selecting South Africa) is a vote of confidence in our facilities, our telecommunications capacity and our cricket-loving fans who have already snapped up all the tickets for the IPL matches," Motlanthe said.
"It is a vote of confidence in our many institutions to manage various major events, and run a peaceful election at the same time."
He pointed out that one of the tournament's unique aspects was that it pitted national teammates against each other, and brought players from rival cricketing nations together on the same teams.
"In entertaining us, the IPL teaches us this important lesson in life: no task is too big, no problem is insurmountable, no disagreement or rivalry is permanent, and every challenge is an opportunity to demonstrate our character and resilience."
Motlanthe also said he wanted to remind South Africans to "take a break from cricket" and vote in the national elections on Wednesday.
"I cannot tell you who to vote for, but I can tell you to do so peacefully," he said.
Motlanthe was joined on stage by Western Cape Premier Lynne Brown and Cape Town mayor Helen Zille.
While Motlanthe and Brown both received a polite reception from the crowd, Zille was greeted with rapturous applause when she was initially introduced. When Motlanthe formally greeted her during his speech, the applause and cheers from the Newlands faithful were again so deafening that the president had to pause for more than a minute.
The ceremony featured British rockers Snow Patrol, who wowed the crowd with their hits. Performers from the Cirque du Soleil added a surreal edge when they took to the field on stilts, wearing huge, colourful butterfly wings.