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The Orlando cooling towers in Soweto South Africa

Good morning Africa from Soweto’s majestic Orlando Towers. The towers that are a prominent landmark in the township and widely known as the site of the world’s highest SCAD free fall.

South Africa’s famous and colorful Soweto cooling towers were erected in 1951, a high density area of the city of Johannesburg named after the abbreviation for the suburbs built in the South Western Townships bordering the city’s mining belt in the south.

Popularly known as the Orlando towers, both towers were built in as an additive to the spray pond cooling system which was running at its capacity before the station was decommissioned in 1998 after 56 years of service.

A bungee jumper at the Orlando Towers in Soweto Township, South Africa
A bungee jumper at the Orlando Towers in Soweto Township, South Africa

The transformation and rebirth of the site of the power station into an entertainment and business centre occurred in 2006 and the popular Orlando towers were born. Once dull and gray, the attractively painted towers are the biggest works of public art in Soweto and they play different roles as exhibition and advertising platforms with one of them working as an advertising signboard another exhibiting the largest mural painting in South Africa.

Rock climbers scaling the face of one of the Orlando Cooling Towers in Soweto. Source:activityzone
Rock climbers scaling the face of one of the Orlando Cooling Towers in Soweto. Source:activityzone

Both towers boast a suspension bridge which hangs about 100 metres above the ground between the power station’s towers. They have made a name for the township, attracting a great number of tourists both local and international, who flock the towers to do the famous, bungee and base jumpings from a platform between the top of the two towers – forgetting a bungee swing into one of the towers. Usually people come to the site to bungee-jump, climb, paintball and (of course) party.

Side view of the Orlando Towers.Source:fabmagazine
Side view of the Orlando Towers.Source:fabmagazine
The bridge between the cooling towers.Source:Citysightseeing
The bridge between the cooling towers.Source:Citysightseeing
Paintball is on offer underneath the tower. Source:citysightseeing.
Paintball is on offer underneath the tower. Source:citysightseeing.

Historical background of Soweto

The protests , were a series of protests led by children from various Soweto high schools in South Africa that protested in the streets of Soweto as their way of saying NO to the Apartheid regime’s introduction of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in local schools. An estimated 20,000 students took part in the protests. The real number of the people who died on that day is not clear however it has been recorded as 176 however some estimated it to be  700. June 16 is now a public holiday in South Africa known as Youth Day, set apart in remembrance of the 1976 events that began in Soweto and spread allover South Africa profoundly changing the socio-political picture in the country.

Students protesting during the June 16 Soweto uprising.Source:Citypress
Students protesting during the June 16 Soweto uprising.Source:Citypress

 

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