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From Soccer Yard to World-Class Stadium

Sebastian Schubert (sms)September 26, 2005

The houses of the soccer gods will be ready when fans fall to their knees at missed penalty kicks and cheer in exultation for newly-won fame, according to World Cup Organizing Committee vice-chairman Wolfgang Niersbach.

All the stadiums need some work before World Cup can get startedImage: AP

While his boss Franz Beckenbauer jets around the world wooing the international media and giving a general boost to the already intense interest in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, it's Niersbach who's left working on the ground to take care of the nitty-gritty of the stadium infrastructure, technology and the daily events that will surround the tournament's matches.

About 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion) will flow into the stadium construction projects before the World Cup gets underway on June 9 -- that's more than 10 times as much as the last time Germany hosted the tournament in 1974.

Wolfgang Niersbach, Vizepräsident des Organisationskomitees FIFA-WM 2006
Wolfgang Niersbach hasn't been reduced to seeking divine intervention yetImage: dpa

"It's not an investment for four weeks, it's an investment for decades," Niersbach (photo) said. "Without exaggerating, we have the best stadiums in the world."

Room for improvement

Unwilling to leave well-enough alone, Niersbach said there is still work to be done before the stadiums are ready for a world-wide audience. Sign-posting inside the stadiums during the Confederations Cup was poor and led to confused fans helplessly searching for concession stands and toilets. There were also too many people who were able to streak on to the field.

"The general conclusion is that we accomplished 85 percent of what we imagined," he said. "That means we have to improve in every area because the demands of the World Cup are much higher."

Though stadium improvements remain necessary, they are running according to schedule. Stuttgart and Kaiserslautern, the two stadiums still under construction, will be finished by December. The World Cup won't be making the same headlines as the 2004 Athens Olympics, where the paint was barely dry before fans began filing in for some events.

Beleuchtete Allianz-Arena in München
Even Munich's brand new Allianz Arena needs some work before it's ready for the World CupImage: dpa

More work scheduled for May

But even some of the newest arenas are in need of some modernization.

"It's clear that a lot will have to happen between the end of the Bundesliga on May 13, 2006 and the beginning of the World Cup on June 9," he said. "There isn't a single stadium that could host a World Cup match today."

However, he is still confident that if the German national team plays to the same standards as he's demanding behind the scenes, the work will be worth it.

"What's comes into being for the 2006 World Cup is gigantic," he said.