Leipzig may be hosting some games during the much-awaited soccer World Cup next year. But, most teams have given eastern Germany the cold shoulder when it comes to setting up camp for the month-long event.
Leizig managed to attract World Cup matches and the draw, but no teams
The eastern German city of Leipzig is playing host to the four opening phase matches during the World Cup next June as well as a last-16 battle. But, that seems to be the extent of former communist East Germany's involvement in the upcoming World Cup, which has the country on tenterhooks.
When it comes to attracting top-drawer World Cup teams, the eastern part of Germany is lagging: About 26 of the 32 participating teams have opted for the West when it comes to setting up their World Cup bases during the month-long tournament.
Officials worry that the World Cup celebrations won't be spread across the reunited country.
"It seems the east isn't attractive for these teams," Rainer Milkoreit told Reuters. "Many of our facilities are much more modern than those in the west. It's supposed to be a World Cup of united Germany but that is not recognized by the teams."
East lags behind
Billions poured into eastern cities such as Leipzig to help them get back on their feet
Ever since German reunification in 1990, the east has struggled to catch up with the wealthier west. Billions have been injected by the government to upgrade infrastructure and give the cities a face-lift. The problems have been compounded by the fact that unemployment is almost double the level of that in the west and that thousands of young people are leaving.
That is why Leipzig was bursting with pride when it managed to attract the World Cup: it is the only eastern city of the 12 chosen to host matches. And it won the distinction of hosting the World Cup draw Dec. 9.
"Leipzig and its inhabitants are a symbol of the peaceful reunification," Franz Beckenbauer, head of the World Cup organising committee told reporters. "We wanted to show the rest of the world that the 2006 World Cup is in a different country than in 1974 when West Germany were hosts."
Maybe so, but the word isn't getting out.
Leipzig built a stadium and won World Cup matches
Potsdam might score
World Cup officials have been trying to ensure that the east gets some of the economic benefits of the matches by sending out some suggestions for bases in the east to participating teams. But they acknowledge that the west has natural advantages: most of the matches are being held there and teams are more familiar with those areas.
"Most of the teams will land in Frankfurt, so the natural inclination may be to look around there and the Rhine area," Ulrich Wolter, a World Cup organizer in Leipzig told Reuters.
Still, a few teams are seriously considering Potsdam, a suburb of Berlin but in the eastern state of Brandenburg. But most will go the way of Brazil or Argentina, who chose Frankfurt and Bavaria respectively.