JOHANNESBURG — The flights arrive daily at OR Tambo International Airport from New York, Atlanta and Washington, delivering thousands of Americans to their vacations in South Africa. Other jets have passed through Paris and London, Frankfurt and Cairo, packed with bleary-eyed travelers completing journeys spanning up to two days.
They’ll explore Kruger National Park in search of the Big Five — the lion, buffalo, elephant, leopard and rhinoceros — and hike Cape Town’s landmark Table Mountain. They’ll trace Nelson Mandela’s historic path and visit Soweto, the sprawling township where the struggle against apartheid took root.
Most of all, Americans are beginning to turn up in this enthralling land for decidedly nontraditional tourism pursuits: soccer.
As the sport’s quadrennial spectacle, the World Cup, unfolds over the next month, starting Friday with the South Africa-Mexico match in Johannesburg, the largest number of ticket holders will come not from traditional soccer strongholds like England, Brazil or Germany but the United States.