Camera-armed tourists cannot wait for the excitement of the World Cup and the grand holiday that awaits them.
- People swim at the artificial beach of the Lost City water park in Sun City
- The Palace Hotel of Lost City in Sun City
- Tourists visist the Sun City resort
- Two months to World Cup, S.Africa counting down, gearing up
The shaking walkway -- leading to a man-made sandy beach -- is classic Sun City: South Africa's flashiest resort which is readying for World Cup fans wanting to combine slots, football and a touch of suspended reality.
AdvertisementFabio Capello's England camp base in nearby host city Rustenburg and a luxury bed shortage in the region has sparked rumours of the team's infamous WAGs -- wives and girlfriends -- as possible guests.
With two months to kick-off to Africa's first World Cup, the sprawling, four-hotel and casino complex in South Africa's pristine rural north-western bush is fully booked.
"Sun City Resort is at 100 percent room occupancy," said spokesman Brett Hoppe.
The presence of the WAGs -- whom Capello is keen to keep as far away as possible after their disruptive antics at Germany 2006 -- is still unconfirmed but likely, he said.
"Obviously because of the proximity to the English team base camp there is a strong possibility that WAGs would make use of the facilities at Sun City," he told AFP.
The 2006 WAGs drew headlines for boozing and shopping in German spa town Baden-Baden when England crashed out of the quarter-finals.
Six of the group were said to have dropped 80,000 euros at boutiques in one hour. More than 4,395 euros was reportedly spent in 10 minutes on shoes and T-shirts.
"While David Beckham and his team have struggled for form on the pitch, their Wags have displayed a world-beating talent for shopping, partying and champagne quaffing," said The Times at the time.
Sun City, a far cry from an ancient bathing spa town, is no stranger to pop culture dazzle.
It has hosted celebrities from Michael Jackson to Oprah Winfrey, uses South African starlet Charlize Theron in its advertising campaigns, and styles itself as "Africa's Kingdom of Pleasure".
Ranging from plushly over the top to the mundane, well-worn mass-market, Sun City has drawn visitors since deepest apartheid when it was built on the back of South Africa's segregationist policies.
In the 1970s, hotelier Sol Kerzner, who has gone on to build luxury developments in the Bahamas, Dubai and Mauritius, controversially inked a deal with a former black homeland set up by the white minority regime.
The result was a gambling oasis that was illegal in white South Africa but drew throngs of visitors from Johannesburg, a two-hour drive away.
Today it sports two golf courses -- where the likes of Tiger Woods have teed off -- and a themed Lost City water park where families bob in machine-generated waves which pound the sandy strip below the Indiana Jones style luxury Palace hotel.
There are 600 slot machines, a tables casino, fast-food outlets, restaurants and handful of bars that guests reach by hopping onto 24-hour school-style buses.
To get to the resort, visitors pass through near-untouched countryside, and are warned not to feed the on-site baboons which prowl the breathtaking landscape that abuts a big game reserve.
The resort drew 350,000 day trippers in its last fiscal year between July 2008 and 2009, with occupancy about an average 75 percent.
While England's players will be training a few kilometres away from Sun City's Temple of Courage, Capello has already warned that no special arrangements will be made to accommodate wives and girlfriends.
"For the whole period we are in South Africa, and I hope it will be long, the players will stay together," he insisted. "They will be able to meet their wives, girlfriends and families one day after each game.
"We have to play. We are in South Africa to play, not for a holiday."