Cape Town -Athlone Towers

The demolition of the
Athlone Towers
in Cape Town

Athlone cooling towers - the left one is damaged

Way back in the 1960's Cape Town had a number of coal powered electricity generating power stations scattered around the city.

The foreshore in Cape Town where most of the new hotels and the convention centre are built was once the site of a coal powered power station. After the power station was decommissioned it took a number of years for the buildings to be removed. The site was finally cleared in the early 90's and today you would not know that it even existed as there are a number of 5 star hotels built on the site.

The second power station to be decommissioned was the one on the coastline near Paarden Eiland. Parts of the old power station are still there but the rest of the site has been sold off and new factories have been erected. On the power station site were two tall chimney stacks which smoked day and night releasing smoke from the coal fired boilers. The smoke was put to good use by the local surfers who at a glance could see in which direction the wind was blowing and from that could deduce where the best surfing spots on the day would be. Today we don't have the chimneys and sadly the beach along the Woodstock coastline is no longer there either and surfers have had to find other places to surf.

Towers seen from the Tygerberg with power station building to the left

A third power station and the one which still exists today is the old West London or Athlone power station. It includes a large building where the generators were housed and two large cooling towers which can be seen from all over Cape Town.

Athlone Towers as seen from Signal Hill with the airport in the background

Most visitors to Cape Town have seen them as they loom large next to the N2 highway as you drive in to the city from the airport. People visiting Signal Hill or Table Mountain will notice them situated more or less in the middle of the Cape Flats as they look out over the Cape Peninsula's Cape Flats.

For those visiting Cape Town during the world cup, the chances of seeing this well known landmark are scarce. In fact if you arrive in Cape Town after the 30th of May all you will see on the site of the cooling towers is a large heap of rubble. Hopefully it will be on the site and not on the N2 causing delays to and from the airport if their demolition by implosion doesn't go to plan.

I can hear you asking why this landmark has to be demolished just before the world cup event.

6 June 2 010

There is good news for fans of the cooling towers and those who are visiting Cape Town during the world cup. The demolition of the towers will happen in early August so you will see them in all their glory. There is just not enough time before the start of the world cup to bring them down and clear the site.)

Watch the press for details of when they will be imploded.

The eastern tower with pieces of its support ring hanging off the tower

There is a very good reason for the demolition.

The eastern tower has lost all its support rings and is likely to collapse

The cooling towers and the power station which were erected in 1960 were taken out of production in 2002 and decommissioned completely in 2006. There is therefore no real reason to keep the cooling towers so why take them down now when there are more pressing things to do before the world cup?

Athlone Towers from the south

The cooling towers have been slowly decaying over the past number of years. A couple of years ago a reinforcing ring was placed around one of the towers to shore it up and stop it from collapsing. This ring has now collapsed and the one tower is now in danger of being blown over by the strong winter winds which are likely to blast the Cape of Storms during the world cup event.

Cape Town authorities have decided that it will be better to fell these giants before the world cup than having to start cleaning up a disaster area during the world cup. By controlling the demolition of the towers there will be a small disruption of traffic as traffic is deviated around the area during the implosion

One small problem however is that the world cup will delay the cleaning up of the site due to traffic constraints along the N2 during the event.


The Athlone towers will imploded by Murray and Roberts on Sunday 22nd of August 2010 at noon. People who live in the vicinity are warned to close all windows and doors to avoid the dust cloud which will inevitably move out from the blast site entering their homes.

The rubble left over from the blast will be removed to a site in Salt River where it will be crushed and then turned into bricks.

Getting close to the blast site on the day seems like a good idea but once the towers have come down everyone in the close vicinity will be covered in thick dust. It's a better idea to get to a vantage point away from the area than to go up close.

Athlone Towers Imploded

On the 22nd of August 2010 at about 11.56 am the Athlone towers were imploded much to the disappointment of Capetonians who had gathered with cameras in hand to video and photograph this once in a lifetime event.

Towers shortly before the implosion taken from the Tygerberg

Media had been advising people that the towers would go down at noon and everybody was caught looking the other way when 4 minutes before the zero hour there was an explosion and the towers collapsed.

The dust cloud after the implosion. The large screen TV on the right also missed the implosion

I personally had been at my post on the hillside of the Tygerberg for more than 50 minutes ready to get the once in a lifetime photograph at noon when a lady close by shouted "there goes the first tower". I did not even have time to look up and by that time the second tower was also gone and all I could see was a dust cloud.

Dust clearing

I am sure that I was not the only one who missed the collapse of the towers and I know that certain TV stations also missed the implosion due to the early blast.

I would love to know why the mayor who is supposed to have been pressing the button did so before 12 o'clock.

Thanks to all those of you who have read my blog and the article on the Athlone towers

This event has put my blog on the map.

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Cape Town- Athlone Towers
Page updated 7.5.2015

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