Telkom is removing the enormous pink ball from Johannesburg’s landmark Hillbrow Tower. Although the telecommunications operator is only obliged to remove the fibreglass structure at the end of the year, it’s doing so now before Johannesburg’s summer thunderstorms render the removal process far more dangerous and difficult.
The giant structure was erected at the end of 2009 and made to resemble a soccer ball in anticipation of the 2010 football World Cup. After the event, it was painted pink to match the logo of Telkom’s consumer mobile arm, 8ta.
Although the 8ta brand is being phased out and replaced with Telkom Mobile, Telkom spokesman Pynee Chetty says this isn’t the motivation for removing the giant pink ball. He says with permissions for it set to expire before the end of the year, Telkom took a decision to remove it now while the weather is conducive to doing so.
“If you live in Johannesburg, you know it gets wet in summer and between the rain and the lightning it makes it more dangerous to remove it in December than now. We’re being proactive and taking it down for safety reasons.”
Chetty says the ball was originally assembled at ground level and has brackets with wheels that rest against the tower. Once completed, the ball was rolled up the tower and fixed to the top. Removing the ball involves this process in reverse. Last weekend, engineers lowered the ball, with its dismantling set to take place this week.
“It’s been a very prominent part of Joburg skyline,” Chetty says, adding that although he doesn’t know how much the ball cost to install, Telkom believes the exposure received from it “far outweighed the cost”. This is particularly true when one considers the “unintended” exposure from its inclusion in any videos or images of the Johannesburg skyline taken during the past two years.
The ball around the Hillbrow Tower was preceded by a slightly larger one fitted to the Lucasrand tower in Pretoria in mid-September 2009. That ball holds the Guinness World Record for the “largest football sculpture” on Earth, with a diameter of 24m and a weight of 50t.
In October 2010, the Hillbrow Tower’s ball made headlines when portions of it began smouldering as a result of a suspected fault with the neon lighting above it. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media