Germany, Cup teams look toward 2006 return

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

YOKOHAMA, Japan -- And now, on to 2006.

The next World Cup will be held in Germany, which staged the world soccer championship in 1974 and won it.

Organizers picked 12 cities as game sites: Berlin, Nuremberg, Hamburg, Leipzig, Cologne, Stuttgart, Dortmund, Gelsenkirchen, Munich, Kaiserslautern, Hanover and Frankfurt.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter was confident Germany "could allow us in 2006 to carry out perhaps the best World Cup ever."

Munich is expected to hold the opening game at a 66,000-seat stadium that has not yet been built.

The preliminary draw to set qualifying groups will be in Frankfurt in December 2003. The final draw will be in Leipzig two years later.

German organizers who visited the World Cup in South Korea and Japan were impressed.

"In terms of politeness and hospitality, Asia is unbeatable," said Franz Beckenbauer, president of the organizing committee and one of Germany's greatest players and coaches.

"The quality of grass is such that you almost don't want to step on it so as not to spoil it. Even players seem reluctant to damage it.

"The conditions are perfect. Maybe the security is a bit too much, but I'd rather have too much than too little security. It's been a great tournament despite all the naysayers before."

Germany outbid England and South Africa for the tournament. It hopes to put on the kind of show the South Koreans and Japanese did, with facilities to match.

But it won't be easy, according to Horst R. Schmidt, executive vice president of the 2006 organizing committee.

"The stadiums and the infrastructure are of such a standard that we'll struggle to match it or improve it," Schmidt said. "We are challenged."

Upgrading the stadiums and infrastructure will cost German organizers and the government $1.49 billion.

That includes a huge overhaul in Leipzig, the only city in former East Germany selected to hold games. Its cavernous but dilapidated Zentralstadion is undergoing an $80 million renovation.

It is also the only city chosen without a team in one of the top two German soccer divisions.

Berlin's Olympiastadion, built for the 1936 Olympics, is undergoing a $214 million facelift as a historic monument. The 76,000-seat facility is expected to hold the final match on July 9, 2006.

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