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Business

Germany Buffs Image Ahead of World Cup

During the World Cup in summer 2006, the eyes of soccer fans around the globe will be on Germany. Political and business leaders see it as a good chance to revamp the nation's image -- at home and abroad.

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The country would like to be seen as a place where ideas blossom

What do aspirin, airbags, ABS brakes and gummi bears have in common? They're all German inventions that are known around the world. And according to the initiators of a public-relations initiative called "Germany, Land of Ideas," they represent kind of innovative thinking the nation should be associated with.

Aspirin-Tablette

Aspirin

Say the word Germany and for many, contradictory images spring to mind. On the one hand, it is a country with a rich history of philosophers and thinkers, a modern leader in high-tech innovation, and a producer of top-quality goods. On the other hand, many people strongly suspect it is a country of dour depressives -- or worse, neo-Nazis -- who don't know how to let loose and have a good time.

Positive spin

The organizers of "Land of Ideas" would like to stress the former aspect, thank you very much.

"We want to make the most of this unique opportunity to present Germany to its visitors from all over the world as a likeable, open-minded, and innovative country," a Land of Ideas press release explains.

Every nook and cranny of the country will be crawling with journalists next summer, as hoards of them flock to Germany to cover the World Cup soccer matches. President Hörst Köhler, who initiated the project along with the Federation of German Industries (BDI), wants to make sure they will file a few non-football related stories as well.

Drei Gummibärchen von Haribo

Gummi bears

FC Deutschland GmbH is the name of the group meant to run the campaign. Clearly, the organizers were going for diversity when they settled on their key message: Germany is burgeoning with creativity. For their logo they have chosen an array of bright flowers in black, red and yellow -- the colors of the German flag -- presumably representing a blossoming of creativity.

Year of Creativity, Walk of Ideas

The effort is focused on something called 365 "Places of Creativity." Organizers have called for applications from institutions and individuals who want to be officially named a Place of Creativity. A jury will select 365 such "places" -- representing the cultural, social work, technology, business, and science scenes -- and will feature one each day throughout the World Cup year.

Another aspect of the initiative is called the "Walk of Ideas." The organizers plan to create oversized sculptures of major German inventions -- think huge printing press (Gutenberg, 1450), automobile (Benz, 1883) or videocassette (Schüller, 1953). By the time the starting whistle blows on the World Cup in June 2006, the sculptures will have been installed on the streets and squares of Berlin.

Das erste Auto

Carl Benz's first automobile

The idea is to create a visual and artistic reminder of all that German innovation was, and all it could be. Yet the effort isn't only aimed at the foreign press. In a country where being patriotic is considered bad form, the hope is that the soccer PR machine can work its magic on its own citizens.

"We want the Land of Ideas message to catch on in Germany too," the organizers say. "Examples of ideas, inventions and entrepreneurial spirit can be found in every region."

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