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World Cup 2006

Politicians Incensed Over Gala Cancellation

Now that the World Cup opening extravaganza in Berlin has been given the boot, politicians are clambering for some kind of replacement show. But FIFA isn't interested.

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Could Munich be a viable replacement location for Cup gala?

The announcement by the world soccer governing body FIFA that the planned opening extravaganza by star director Andre Heller would not take place struck like a bolt of lightning on a sunny day in Berlin. The city's mayor, Klaus Wowereit, scrambled quickly after being knocked down by the FIFA blow.

He said he would try to persuade FIFA to allow an alternative show at the Brandenburg Gate, a location better known for its New Year's celebrations, the Love Parade and naturally the emotional scenes of the reunification in 1989. It seems less than the ideal spot for soccer fans to gather in the direct run-up to the World Cup, far away from the Olympic Stadium, where the World Cup final will take place.

But now FIFA very much wants to distance itself from any kind of opening ceremony.

"The gala will not be replaced," said the soccer body's director of communications Markus Siegler.

FIFA incurring Germany 's wrath

WM-Gala in Berlin fällt aus Franz Beckenbauer Andre Heller

Andre Heller (r) said FIFA's cancellation of his extravaganza would not come "cheap"

The matter is leaving a bitter taste in public officials' mouths.

"This is embarrassing and is not a good start," Dieter Wiefelspütz, the Social Democratic domestic policy spokesman, told Hanover's Neue Presse newspaper.

Not only has the extravaganza been ignominiously wiped off the schedule of World Cup events, Germany's image itself could even be tarnished, according to Wiefelspütz. The organizers of the month-long tournament, led by former soccer star Franz Beckenbauer, are hoping for a World Cup that would make all others pale in comparison. Yet months before the first German goal is scored, the SPD politician said that grave mistakes have already been made.

Why not move it to Munich?

While some Berlin officials seethe, others have floated the idea of moving the gala to Munich, where the opening match will be played on June 9.

Party wie jedes Jahr

The Brandenburg Gate was the venue for wild parties like the now-defunct Love Parade

Ernst Hinsken, the chair of the parliamentary tourism committee and also from Bavaria, said that Munich has the facilities to do it.

"The old Olympic Stadium would be the right place for the gala," he told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper. "The concept would have to be watered down a little bit (for Munich) but then it would work."

The idea is not without its merits. Thousands of fans would be spared having to make the trek from Berlin to Munich said Hinsken. Most importantly, Hinsken believes, the financial and image loss must be held to a minimum. The call has so far fallen on deaf ears in Zurich, where FIFA's headquarters are located. FIFA's Siegler said that there is no chance that the gala will be held elsewhere.

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