Boasting international stars and a laser show, Berlin staged a big party at the Brandenburg Gate on Wednesday for thousands of fans to get in the mood for the World Cup.
Fans had no trouble getting in to the spirit of the party in Berlin on Wednesday
Thousands of people thronged the historic Brandenburg Gate in downtown Berlin, a symbol of the city's Cold War division, on Wednesday evening to soak in the mounting excitement gripping the city as the clock ticks down to the soccer World Cup 2006.
Fans were in a good mood all around
Foreign fans from Brazil, Paraguay, Poland, Ecuador, Netherlands and Switzerland, many in colorful costumes, joined thousands of German revelers sporting red, black and yellow hats, outlandish wigs and other whacky fan paraphernalia to sway to an international music line-up and see some soccer legends in the flesh.
Simple Minds and Pelé delight crowds
British rock group Simple Minds kicked off the concert for the official Berlin fan party to welcome visitors to the month-long event, which begins on Friday when host Germany take on Costa Rica in Munich.
Canadian pop singer Nelly Furtado, British group Right Said Fred and Italian singers Gianna Nannini and Andrea Bocelli also entertained the around 100,000-strong crowd.
Sporting celebrities, including Brazilian soccer legend Pele and former British soccer World Cup champion Bobby Charlton, were enthusiastically cheered by the fans.
Pele with host Barbara Schöneberger
"It's God's gift that I'm still so popular and famous even though I haven't stood on the pitch for 25 years," Pele said.
The party closed with a soccer film by German director Sönke Wortmann, who won acclaim with his 2003 film "The Miracle of Bern," fireworks and a laser show.
Huge fan fests in all 12 cities
Wednesday's party was also meant to unveil the so-called fan mile, a stretch between the Brandenburg Gate and the Strasse des 17 Junis that boasts massive video screens on which all the 64 games will be aired live.
In addition to hotdogs and beer, fans can also watch live concerts and shows on days when there are no games.
All 12 cities hosting the World Cup are staging similar fan fest programs, showing the games on giant screens for the many supporters traveling to Germany without a match ticket.
Brazilian and German fans at the party
"It's great that you've all come here despite FIFA canceling the gala," said Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, in reference to the bitter disappointment of Berliners after the soccer governing body abruptly cancelled a lavish opening ceremony planned at Berlin's Olympic Stadium amid concerns it could damage the pitch.
"It's a wonderful feeling that hundreds of thousands of people are coming here, to be welcomed by friends."