The draw to determine first-round match-ups for the 2006 World Cup football finals in Germany will be held December 9 in Leipzig, one of the 12 cities that will host games when the tournament begins next June. VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer recently returned from Germany and reports on some of the preparations for football's premier event.
Berlin's Olympic Stadium will host the opening gala for the 2006 World Cup on June 7. It is the first time the International Football Federation, FIFA, has planned such an extravaganza to precede the World Cup finals.
The date of the gala recently was moved up one day. Berlin World Cup official, former national team player Michael Preetz, told VOA that organizers realized that after the elaborate staging, the field would need more recovery time. "We will have many thousands of people around for this big party here in Berlin, and the field, the grass, will take some days to recover, and that is the reason that we want one day more, to have the field in good condition for the first game here in Berlin," he said.
Berlin will host the first of its six games on June 13th and will also host the final, while the opening World Cup match will be staged in Munich on June 9th.
Many visitors for the 2006 World Cup in Germany will arrive by train, and the capital city of Berlin will be prepared, as a huge new train station is expected to be in full operation. The station will accommodate international, national, and local trains and subways. A huge office complex will also part of the station, as well as an underground motorway. Its full inauguration is planned for late May.
Ingulf Leuschel, who is in charge of the timetables and infrastructure, told VOA that during the month-long tournament it is expected to handle one-quarter of a million passengers per day. "We will start with a completely new schedule all over Germany, and especially during the World Cup we will have additional trains, sometimes which run these days normally with one unit, they will run with two units coupled together."
For those traveling by car or bus, special signs will be installed on roads near the stadiums. World Cup traffic manager Josef Simons told VOA, spectators will follow simple color codes to find their seating sections. "All the stadiums are divided in four zones with different colors and each spectator has a mark on his ticket. And we want to install a traffic guide system that makes use of these different colors."
Work is still being done inside and outside the 12 stadiums to be used for the World Cup, much of it cosmetic. German organizing committee Vice President Wolfgang Niersbach told VOA he is optimistic at the progress. "We are quite satisfied. The key message is without any doubt that the stadiums, the 12 stadiums, will be ready in time. But between the actual season of our Bundesliga, the German Bundesliga, and the opening of the World Cup, we still have a lot to do in each stadium, especially we will change the pitch (the grass field). Our policy, our goal, is to offer the world 12 brand new pitches, and we will do it."
Now, football fans anxiously await Friday's draw to see who their favorite teams will be playing, and in which German cities, when the World Cup kicks off next June.