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Cape Town awaits IPL celebrity invasion

Cape Town is readying for the biggest celebrity influx of the year as the off-field stars of the Indian Premier League (IPL) converge on the Mother City.

As a popular holiday destination and film-shoot location, Cape Town is no stranger to the rich and famous, but with the glamorous Twenty20 tournament due to start here Saturday, the city is set for a different sort of invasion.

The eight teams in the Indian competition are owned by some of the biggest Bollywood stars and richest people in the world, who will stay at Cape Town's new five-star hotel, One and Only.

Officially opened by local hotelier Sol Kerzner just two weeks ago, One and Only was built with celebrities in mind, and extravagant rooms cost between 610 and 3,880 dollars per night in the low season. The IPL task team are camped at the hotel as the tournament approaches, and confirmed that celebrities were expected to arrive from Tuesday.

"All the franchise owners, Shah Rukh Khan, Shilpa Shetty, Preity Zinta, the Ambanis, will arrive today," organisers told AFP.

"The only exception is Bangalore owner Vijay Mallya, who will come next week as he first wants to watch his Formula One team, Force India, compete in the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai."

Khan is one of Bollywood's biggest stars and owns the Kolkata Knight Riders, while Shetty is co-owner of the Rajasthan Royals and a former winner of Celebrity Big Brother.

Fellow actress Zinta is part-owner of the Kings XI Punjab franchise and will jet in from Port Elizabeth where she has been watching the team train and attending the fourth ODI between South Africa and Australia.

Business tycoon Mukesh Ambani is the head of the fourth-richest family in the world, and owns the Mumbai Indians through his conglomerate Reliance Industries.

If that weren't enough, the various wives and girlfriends (WAGS) of the players due to compete in the IPL opening weekend will add extra sparkle around Cape Town.

England batsman Kevin Pietersen will return to his homeland Thursday with wife Jessica Taylor, a reality TV star who recently competed in the English show Dancing On Ice.

Bollywood actress Lakshmi Rai is expected to spend some time in Cape Town watching India's heartthrob captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, with the duo rumoured to be dating.

Celebrity watchers will hope Andrew Symonds' girlfriend Katie Johnson, recently voted Australia's top WAG in an online poll, will add some Australian flavour by following his exploits with the Deccan Chargers.

And there's the local contingent, with Jacques Kallis' model partner Shamone Jardim and actress Jeanne Kietzmann, girlfriend of Dale Steyn, set to represent the host nation at gatherings set to dazzle South Africa's fairest city. CAPE TOWN, AFP

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