JOHANNESBURG (AFP) Africas first football World Cup began with an explosion of colour and emotion in a ceremony in Johannesburgs Soccer City Friday, but blighted by the absence of a heartbroken Nelson Mandela. Fans wept openly as five planes swept over the stadium and the iconic township of Soweto before 1,500 performers piled on to the pitch for a choreographed dance routine which saw them create a map of Africa. Mandela was missing after his great granddaughter was killed in a car crash on the way back from an eve of tournament concert but his words were interspersed in an opening song, imploring fans to overcome all adversity. Artists from the six African teams competing in the finals then took to the stage, including Khaled, the Algerian king of rai music, Nigerias Femi Kuti and South Africas legendary trumpeter Hugh Masekela. Organisers had hoped South Africas first black president Mandela would wow the crowds with an appearance but he was instead mourning the death of 13-year-old Zenani Mandela in a crash that police said was caused by a drunk driver. Mandela is 91 and has been in frail health. We are sure that South Africans and people all over the world will stand in solidarity with Mr Mandela and his family in the aftermath of this tragedy, said a statement from his foundation. Madiba will be there with you in spirit today, it added. Zenanis death is the latest tragedy to hit the Nobel laureate, one of whose sons died of AIDS while another was killed in a car crash during Mandelas 27 years in jail as a prisoner of the whites-only apartheid regime. The nation shares your loss and mourns with you, especially on the day on which our dreams and hopes come alive in the opening of the first FIFA World Cup on African soil, said South African President Jacob Zuma. In a letter to Mandela, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said he had been stunned to hear the unspeakably tragic news. Both men were present at the opening, alongside 78-year-old Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu who danced along in a yellow and green South African team strip. The ground was far from full for the opening ceremony as park and ride buses struggled through traffic jams and a special train service suffered delays. Ever since it was awarded the tournament six years ago, South Africa has had to fend off accusations that its lack of infrastructure and high crime rate meant it could not stage an event of such magnitude. The hosts hope that a successful tournament with world renowned names such as Argentinas Lionel Messi, Portugals Cristiano Ronaldo and Englands Wayne Rooney will overturn perceptions of Africa as the hopeless continent a place regarded by many as synonymous with war, famine and AIDS. All the stadiums and World Cup infrastructure projects have been completed on time although crime is still a worry. Journalists have been robbed at gunpoint and thieves have even stolen cash from the rooms of the Greek team. The first of the tournaments 63 matches, between South Africas Bafana Bafana team and Mexico, was to kick off after the opening ceremonies at Soccer City, a showpiece arena rebuilt to resemble an African cooking pot, lying just a long kick from Soweto. The one-time sprawling network of tin shacks now home to millionaires and Africas largest shopping mall was the frontline of the battle against apartheid which ended in 1994 with the election of Mandela as president. Nearly 85,000 supporters packed in to watch the opening match which promised to be an ear-splitting affair with the vuvuzela plastic horn a must-have accessory. Cape Town will later host France and Uruguay. Roads around the stadiums have been declared off limits and bomb squads swept the seats before the gates opened. In a briefing to officers, police commissioner Bheki Cele warned the eyes of the world would be on them. He said 34,000 police would be deployed around the stadium, with 10,000 reservists at other public areas. We are on high alert, said Cele. Some 20 African heads of state and US Vice President Joe Biden were attending the opening.