TICKETS for Saturday’s opening Africa Cup of Nations between South Africa and Cape Verde are sold out – four days ahead of schedule.

By late yesterday, more than 80 000 tickets had been snatched up for the crunch fixture at the 94 700-seater National Stadium (formerly Soccer City).

The sudden surge in sales for this opening fixture has not only given the organisers hope that they will reach their target of 500 000 ticket sales for the tournament, but prompted the Afcon local organising committee (LOC) to increase the number of tickets available to the public.

“We are worried about the shortage of tickets. We now need to release an additional 4 000 tickets that were reserved for corporate (clients),” said Sipho Sithole, the LOC’s chief communications officer.

In other cities, ticket sales have been sluggish. Of particular concern are Rustenburg and Port Elizabeth, where just more than 40 000 tickets had been sold so far for each venue. Each of these venues will host eight matches.

Despite this, the LOC remained optimistic that it would meet its 500 000 target. By yesterday, just more than 400 000 tickets had been sold.

Buoyed by the sudden rise in ticket sales, the Confederation of African Football (Caf) yesterday gave SA’s organisation of the tournament the thumbs-up – after a spate of negative newspaper reports over the weekend. “We are truly grateful and would like to thank the LOC for the amount of work they have done. We are delighted and look forward to an exciting event in this country,” said Caf general secretary Hicham El Amrani.

Transport concerns also appear to have been allayed. Fans intending to go to the opening ceremony and opening match have a range of transport options, including free rides on Metrorail trains for valid match ticket holders; park-and-ride arrangements and park-and-walk facilities, or a 20-minute bus ride from Soweto or downtown Joburg.

For a R17 return ticket, fans can board a bus at any of the Rea Vaya stations or stops in Soweto and the Joburg inner city.

All Rea Vaya feeder and complementary routes will be operational before and after the match. Fans using the feeder service will pay R9 extra for the return trip. The City of Joburg has also set up a park-and-ride facility at Constitution Hill in Braamfontein, and one at the corner of Pat Mbatha Road and Anderson Street in the Joburg CBD.

Fans can park their cars at the two venues then catch a Rea Vaya bus to the stadium. Park-and-ride costs R30.

“Maximum travelling time (for Rea Vaya) is 20 minutes... The service will start operating four hours before the opening and closing ceremonies and you should be back at your car one hour after the game has ended,” said City of Joburg spokesman Nthatisi Modingoane.

Modingoane said park-and-walk costs R50 per sedan vehicle, R100 per taxi and R400 for a bus. These facilities are in Aeroton and Shareworld and parking tickets can be bought through Computicket.

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