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World Cup 2006

Calls for World Cup Cancellation Increase Bird Flu Hysteria

A number of politicians have said that a potential bird flu outbreak in the general population should lead to the cancellation of the World Cup in Germany this summer.

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Mass public events would be at risk during a contamination lock-down in Germany

Bird flu psychosis is not only causing members of the public to panic unnecessarily and act irrationally but politicians also.

Despite the government's assurances that the soccer tournament is not in danger of being cancelled, liberal Free Democratic party agriculture expert Hans-Michael Goldmann was quoted in the Bild tabloid as saying: "We don't even have to think about whether the World Cup should be cancelled if people start falling ill," he said.

In this case, Goldmann added, it would be wrong to allow the championship to take place. "No one would be crazy enough to go into a stadium anyway," he concluded.

Vogelgrippe in Deutschland

Bird flu has already hit Germany's northern Baltic island of Rügen

Franz-Josef Holzenkamp, an agriculture policy expert with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), also jumped on the bandwagon. "If the virus becomes that dangerous, our priority must be people, not the World Cup."

The debate started after the Green party's agriculture expert, Bärbel Höhn, and the leader of the World Health Organization's flu program, Klaus Stöhr, both spoke of emergency measures regarding mass public gatherings in the event of a pandemic.

"Absurd" suggestion only fuels panic, says sports head

However, Peter Danckert, the chairman of the sports committee in the Bundestag, called the idea "preposterous" and "absurd," adding that spreading such paranoid speculation was "very unhelpful."

Höhn later said that her statements were made in the context of a potential mutation in the H5N1 virus into a communicable variation between humans and that she was referring to all major events in the instance of such an outbreak. She did not, at the present time, refer directly to the World Cup in the current climate.

WHO expert Stöhr also qualified his previous statement, saying that he was referring to steps that would be taken in the event of a human bird flu pandemic. In the case of the virus becoming a human-to-human infection "it would take a very, very brave person not to call off an event like the World Cup," he said.

Despite these moves to diffuse the row, Danckert said that the best way to have avoided adding to the hysteria would have been to not have made the statements in the first place.

The World Cup Organizing Committee has not commented on the statements.

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