Leonardo DiCaprio and Angelina Jolie head up a star-studded cast of celebrities expected to descend on Durban during the COP17 climate talks in three weeks’ time, which will be the biggest single event in Durban’s history.
Hotels are fully booked, including presidential suites at venues like the Beverly Hills – at R7 500 a night – and the Oyster Box. Hotels as far afield as Ballito and Pietermaritzburg are being used. It’s a hospitality bonanza that will net the industry as much as R500 million.
Although the final guest list is under wraps, it is believed that DiCaprio, one of the world’s high-profile proponents of green lifestyles, and Jolie, a Unicef ambassador, will be in town, even if for a short time.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, former US vice-president-turned-environmental-activist Al Gore, and U2’s Bono are also expected.
World Bank president Robert Zoellick, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and eight Nobel Laureates, including Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, will be in town, along with CNN founder Ted Turner and Virgin head Richard Branson.
Heads of state will head to Durban during the closing stages of the talks. Government ministers from 190 states will be jetting into the city.
Grammy Award winner Angelique Kidjo and Mali afro-pop singer Salif Keita will join a host of South African musicians who will perform at various concerts and events. Among the South Africans will be Hugh Masakela, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, rap star HHP and Springbok Nude Girls frontman, Arno Carstens.
International activists will also be in town, including Green Peace’s Kumi Naidoo, Vanada Shiva of India, a leader of the International Forum on Globalisation, Friends of the Earth’s Nimo Bassey and Dr Rajendra Pachauri – a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
One of the bigger pre-conference events is a free rally and concert at King’s Park Stadium on November 27, hosted by Tutu. The conference starts the next morning.
“The mileage Durban will get from this event is massive,” said Sue Bannister, acting head of the eThekwini Municipality’s strategic projects unit. She said hosting the event would cost the city a little more than R50m, but that it will be money well spent.
“The people coming are not just here for match days, but are here for two straight weeks. It’s as big as the World Cup, just at a tenth of the cost,” she said.
According to early economic benefit studies, the hospitality industry alone could stand to make R500m.
“The people that are coming have got a lot of spare cash,” she said.
“At the ICC, we are expecting about 15 000 people. The biggest we’ve had before is about 10 000. There are also NGOs coming and events on the outskirts could bring in as many as 5 000, 10 000 or 20 000 extra people. It’s huge,” she said.
During World Cup match days, about 20 000 non-Durbanites came to the city.
“There will be benefits for local traders, for people in catering, and so on. The taxi cabs will be busy, and I know some delegations have hired personal buses. It really is a big event,” she said.
Security for the event will be tight and there will be a virtual lockdown of the city centre.
Metro Police deputy head Steve Middleton told the Tribune there would be an increased deployment of officers for the event.
“The core area of the event is at the ICC and the Durban Exhibition Centre, thus there will be increased deployment in this vicinity. This is mainly for traffic control and management, but also for crime prevention purposes,” he said.