World Cup opening ceremony sparkles

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The 19th edition of the FIFA World Cup has been opened by a spectacular ceremony in Johannesburg, albeit in front of a less than capacity Soccer City.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and South African president Jacob Zuma were amongst those spotted in the audience.

However, there was one notable absentee at the opening - former president Nelson Mandela, who pulled out following the death of his great-granddaughter in a car crash.

But the absense of the 91-year-old did not stop the 1,581 artists from enthralling the crowd - at least half of whom disappointingly missed out on proceedings after arriving late to the 85,000-capacity venue.

After an aerial display by the South African air force, a group of drummers and dancers performed a 'Welcome to Africa' song that included an introduction to all 10 of the tournament's venues.

The next sequence saw a gigantic beetle show off its football skills with the Jabulani - the official football of the finals - before large pieces of cloth were used to show a map of the continent.

A smoking calabash, depicting the stadium design, showed off another side of Africa, while the colour and splendour drew even more roars from the slowly-filling stadium.

Musicians and artists from the other African finalists - Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria - also had their chance to perform in a joint sequence.

Multiple Grammy Award winner R Kelly then sang the ceremony's showpiece song, 'Sign of a Victory' with South Africa's Soweto Spiritual Singers.

And the opening concluded with a display of flags from the 176 competing member associations which failed to qualify.