Twelve different cities are hosting the 2006 World Cup football finals in Germany. Of those 12, nine had existing stadiums undergo reconstruction for the month-long tournament, while the other three have new stadiums. The newest of those is in Munich, which hosted the opening match and will host five other games, including a semifinal.

For those around the world who watched television coverage of the opening World Cup match in Munich last Friday between Germany and Costa Rica, they probably understand why the stadium, home of the famous Bundesliga football club Bayern Munich, is nicknamed "The Spaceship".

That is what it looks like by day or night from just about every angle or distance.

Stadium media guide Yelena Perec-Ducke told VOA Sports the exterior is covered with 2,874 translucent inflated panels, or cushions. "They are really like a pillow with the inside filled with warm air. Warm air is being pumped all the time inside. It is not plastic. It is call ethylene tetra-fluro-ethylene. It is a special polymer that is very flexible. It can take a lot of pressure, and it is two-hundredths of a millimeter thick," she said.

Perec-Ducke says there are gauges to make sure the panels, or pillows, stay properly inflated. "On top of the stadium there are 12 different measuring points, which are all the time measuring temperature, humidity, pressure and everything. And if something is being changed, temperature or humidity, or whatever, automatically there is more or less air pumped inside; also the difference in the temperature of the air being pumped inside, so there's always pressure built inside to keep the cushions blown up [inflated], so to say," she said.

There are 1,100 cushions, or panels, with light bars inside that have three colors, red, white and blue. The white ones are turned on at night for international matches like the World Cup. Blue and red are the colors of the Munich clubs that use the stadium and are turned on accordingly for their home matches.

The facility is located in northeast Munich on a large parcel of land next to a super highway and close to a rail line 13 kilometers northeast from the central train station. That makes is easily accessible for public and private transportation.

It took a little more than two years to build at a cost of about $400 million. There are 66,000 seats on three levels and 106 private VIP lounges of various sizes.

Perec-Ducke says the sight lines to the field are good from all seats. "Because of the way it was made, you can see perfect. The other thing is, it is built almost as a coliseum. There are shades [on the top] that can be pulled up across the top, and the light is then beamed down on the pitch, so it is really like in a theater. Everything is very condensed. Everything is very close. For the fans it is really something that they have a feeling that they are very close to the players," she said.

Perec-Ducke added that besides two big video screens, there is a state-of the-art sound system. "There are, on the height of 42 meters, there are 24 so to say, sound clusters, each made of six speaker boxes. Altogether they are 158,000 watts strength. Because of the way the arena was made, the sound is going up and then really going down again. And because of this round form - it is really like a coliseum - wherever you are you hear perfectly what they are saying," she said.

All in all, football fans lucky enough to have a ticket for World Cup games at the stadium in Munich should have an experience they will long remember. The next World Cup match in Munich is the Group H encounter between Tunisia and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.