Magazine article African Business

World Cup Opening for Durban's King Shaka International Airport: After a 50-Year Battle with Successive Governments, Durban's New Ultra-Hi-Tech Airport Has Opened in Time to Welcome World Cup Visitors

Magazine article African Business

World Cup Opening for Durban's King Shaka International Airport: After a 50-Year Battle with Successive Governments, Durban's New Ultra-Hi-Tech Airport Has Opened in Time to Welcome World Cup Visitors

Article excerpt

Way out in the emerald-green and seemingly endless sugar-cane fields of northern Zululand, in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province, a new airport has suddenly appeared. Although it sprawls over 2,000ha of land and is as modern and as technically advanced as any in the world today, it blends comfortably with its rustic, verdant surroundings, and the Indian Ocean not far away.

The terminal buildings are low slung and aesthetically at ease with the province's green and pleasant landscape, realm of the Zulu warrior and the greatest of them all, the legendary King Shaka, after whom the new airport is named.

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At 50km distance from Durban, the city it serves, more than one resident has remarked, somewhat wryly, that city planners "have certainly allowed for expansion". But Durban airport, in South Africa's fastest-expanding city, had outgrown its suburban location, squeezed in between the harbour and the central business district, and needed room to flex its muscles.

The irony of the R10bn ($1.7bn) King Shaka International is that although it was constructed in a record 24 months, it first appeared on architects' drawing boards over half a century ago when the need for a new airport for Durban became pressing.

Eventually King Shaka's opponents caved in, in the face of Johannesburg airport's choked runways and access roads, national clamour for an alternative air traffic hub and, of course, the impending swarm of incoming passenger jets for the 2010 soccer World Cup.

Why did it take so long?

The story has it that Durban's new airport took over 50 years to get the nod because mighty Johannesburg was afraid it might be usurped as the hub for international air traffic. Durban's new airport was an inevitability and the focus is now on how South Africa's air industry will develop in the short to medium term. …

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