The World Cup opening concert in Soweto drew nearly 8.5 million television viewers in South Africa, the highest for an entertainment event in recent history.

Thousands of people rocked Orlando Stadium in South Africa's biggest township Thursday, to sing at the first World Cup concert on the eve of the world's most watched sporting event.

The concert was broadcast live around the world, and stars included Alicia Keys, Angelique Kidjo and Vusi Mahlasela. Colombian pop star Shakira sang the official World Cup anthem "Waka Waka (This time for Africa)" (Sony Music) with South African group Freshly Ground.

"Data showed that peak viewing for the concert topped out at just under 8.5 million South African viewers, with an average of just over 6.7 million viewers on [national broadcaster] SABC 1 and [subscription channel) SuperSport 3 combined," research company Nielsen said in a statement.

"Few events in recent years have managed to achieve these kinds of local audience figures," Nielsen managing director Chris Eyre said.

The statement said the only special event broadcasts to come close to the viewing of the concert on the eve of the first World Cup match included the 2008 South African Music Awards (SAMA) with almost five million viewers.

The August 2009 screening of a 30th anniversary celebration for Michael Jackson saw 3.88 million television viewers in South Africa tuned in.

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