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South Korea Unveils World Cup Stadium Saturday - 2001-11-09


The showpiece of South Korea's World Cup football preparations will be unveiled in Seoul on Saturday, when the national team takes on Croatia in a warm-up for next year's finals.

The match will be played in the newly-built $150 million Seoul World Cup stadium. Hailed as the largest football stadium in Asia, it seats 64,640 people. The state-of-the-art structure is equipped with digital scoreboards and screens and high-tech lighting.

It is a classic case of one-upmanship by the Koreans over their World Cup co-host Japan - for a long time bitter regional rivals. Until the Seoul World Cup stadium went up, Japan had the largest football stadium in Asia, at 63,700-seater in Saitama, north of Tokyo.

When former FIFA president Joao Havelange was forced to concede that Japan could lose the vote to South Korea for the 2002 finals, he immediately pushed for the first ever co-hosted World Cup. Although neither country was pleased at the compromise, South Korea was determined to make the most of it to further promote the country. Korean officials convinced FIFA to alter its original plan to call the tournament the Japan-Korea World Cup, instead getting the title changed to the Korea-Japan World Cup.

There will be maximum security for Saturday's match between South Korea and Croatia, as South Korean president Kim Dae-Jung will be the principle guest at the gala opening.

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