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FIFA World Cup 2006, Germany

A Time to Make Friends

World Cup Stadium, Dortmund

On Tuesday, March 21 in the early afternoon 3,000 football fans milled around outside the Signal Iduma Park in Dortmund, Germany. Shortly before the start of the 3:45 United States’ team training session, they gained entry to the stadium. Judging by their black and yellow colors, many of the spectators were members of the Borussia Dortmund Club. Despite not being able to cheer for their own team, their enthusiasm for football approaches a religion, which brought them to the practice.

The American players were in Europe getting ready for FIFA, Federation Internationale de Football Association, World Cup taking place in 12 German cities and stadiums from June 9 to July 9. Teams from every continent will star in the matches.

Unlike some participating countries, such as Italy and Brazil, America is less involved with the sport. In fact, some Americans would be hard pressed to explain the difference between football and soccer. Soccer is called football outside of the United States and the American game of football is not well known beyond our shores. In our country there are two sports for kicking a ball around a field, albeit of different shapes. Branching off from rugby, Association football (soccer) started in England in 1863.

The upsurge of interest in soccer here in the U.S. can be explained by several phenomena. In the last few decades the sport gained in popularity among youngsters. The coining of the term "soccer mom" in 1996 to describe suburban mothers who voted for Clinton and drove SUVs publicized the game. The strong American team is rated fifth in the world.

Credit: Edwin C. Fancher

The German World Cup organizing committee estimated that about 30,000,000 devotees wanted tickets, which were released in five phases. The U.S. allotment of 13,000 seats for the 64 games was snapped up soon after they went on sale. American aficionados who were shut out might take their chances and plan a European vacation around the games. If they don’t meet up with a scalper, they will at least have the option of watching the matches on giant TV screens in centers of the host cities as well as towns, villages, and bars across the country.

Germany spent $1.5 on construction to provide a suitable stage for the world’s biggest sporting event. Hamburg offered a training base for the U.S. team coached by Bruce Arena, but a non-tournament match between our country and Germany occurred on March 22nd in the 83,000-seat Westfalenstadion in Dortmund. Although soccer is serious business here, there was along with the tantalizing odors of bratwurst and sauerkraut frivolity in the air. Some attendees wore amusing costumes and jester hats.

The Americans lost badly, 4-1, because of poor playing during the second half of this friendly game. Coach Arena suggested that the results might have been helpful to him. Watching the performance of the U.S. players gave him the opportunity to evaluate who should be chosen for the final World Cup roster.

Dortmund plans to host FIFA World Cup 2006 guests with lively international street theater, an African festival, 24-hour parties, pop concerts, and an open-air installation, Football Gardens. The city’s tourist agency is planning gala dinners, a banquet at a medieval castle, a canoe tour, and brewery visits.

The official "Football Guide 2006" cooperatively written by 12 German football stars includes chapters on all the stadiums and cities where the games will happen. The author of the section on Dortmund in the Ruhr embellishes the town’s appeal.

Square at City Hall, Hamburg
Credit: Edwin C. Fancher

But, one nearby attraction in Essen is worth a detour. Zollverein, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and formerly the world’s largest coal mining complex, is an aesthetic masterpiece of architecture and design. The structural bones of the Bauhaus 20s-style buildings—boiler house, coal washing plant, coking bunker—are still in place. They now house museums, restaurants, artists’ workrooms, galleries, event halls, and sports facilities. More projects are in the planning stages.

British architect Sir Norman Thomas turned the four-level boiler house into the remarkable Red Dot Museum at the Design Center Nordhein-Westfalen to showcase modern design’s best creations. The rusting girders, red brick walls, and massive industrial piping are intact alongside the displays of everyday items, such as cookware, appliances, eye glasses, motorcycles, and furniture, which are all maximally functional as well as beautiful in form.

The floors are constructed with open spaces between their edges and the sides of the building so that visitors can view the entire museum from any level.

Not only are the government and tourist bureaus working to provide visitors with a memorable World Cup experience, but adversarial fan clubs have joined together as good will ambassadors. Hamburg’s SV and FC St.Pauli followers wrote and printed 400,000 copies of a 120-page guide in three languages. Like all host cities Hamburg will set up mobile embassies to provide information about accommodations, dining, and entertainment.

Hamburg’s AOL Sports Arena completed in 2000 on the site of the old Volkspark stadium with a spectator capacity of about 51,000 is noteworthy for its state-of-the art technical facilities. Individual visitors need not book in advance for the one- and one-half hours guided tours, which will lead them through the private boxes, mixed zone, locker rooms, and the press lounge.
The arena will host four group games and one quarter final.

Interior, City Hall, Hamburg
Credit: Edwin C. Fancher

Located inside the arena is the HSV (Hamburger Sports Verein) Museum, which is crowded with mementoes of soccer and other games—models of stadiums, banners, logos, jerseys, trophies, posters, film clips and information about HSV legends.

In Hamburg as in the other host cities it’s not just about soccer. It’s about culture, entertainment, history, architecture and all the other drawing cards that cause people to travel around the globe.

Germany’s second largest metropolis, Hamburg, the free Hanseatic port at the mouth of the Elbe known as Gate to the World, is turned toward the ocean. An old city where the future is happening now, it is built around two tree-lined lakes, the Inner Auster with its ring of patrician mansions and the Outer Auster, a unique cityscape of land and water where urbanism and nature intermingle.

Hamburg is sometimes referred to as the Venice of the North. The central square adjacent to the richly decorated façade of City Hall, the many canals, including the Alsterfleet on the north side of the Rathaus, and the almost 2500 bridges, more than in Amsterdam or in Venice itself, are reminiscent of the Italian city on the lagoon.

Except when the Senate is in session, regular tours are conducted at City Hall, with its 600 ornate rooms. The highlight of the structure is the Great Banqueting Hall, which can accommodate 1,000 guests. In these palatial surroundings lit by bronze chandeliers holding 240 bulbs, 400 invitees—primarily the powers that be in the city of Hamburg--dine and drink at the Methew Supper taking place once a year.

Credit: Edwin C. Fancher

Hamburg is entering into a new golden age. Against the backdrop of the 19th- century tidy red brick storehouse complex, Speicherstadt, the ultramodern Hafen (harbor) City is growing up. The thick walled-warehouses store foodstuffs, computers and about $1 billion in Oriental rugs at any given time.

The very best of Speicherstadt’s attractions is Minatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model railroad. With tracks running through five geographic areas populated with 150,000 people about one inch tall, the details are astounding. There are 1,000 trains hauling more than 15,000 carriages, 150,000 trees, 5,000 vehicles, more than 10,000 meters of track, 5,000 structures and bridges, more than 1,500 signals, and 3,000 turnouts (switches).

You need not be accompanied by a child to enjoy this phenomenal museum, which takes hours to see. Two hundred and fifty thousand lamps and LEDs light up structures, streets, and vehicles! An entire day from dawn to full daylight to dusk is simulated in 15 minutes.

Fifty "action buttons" keep the momentum going as the visitor is drawn into the movements of the displays. Push a button and a train starts, a shark chases a diver, a UFO lands, motorcycles race, a Ferris wheel turns and bumper cars circle in an amusement park, a ski lift takes off, a bungee jumper swings, "goal" sounds from a soccer arena, and the hotels of Las Vegas light up. http://www.miniatur-wunderland.com

At a scale model erected in an old Speicherstadt boiler house you can get a sneak preview of HafenCity, one of the most ambitious urban projects ever conceived in Europe. When completed HafenCity will include residential and commercial buildings, a hotel, restaurants, promenades and parks, Elbphilharmonie, the cultural flagship of the project, a planetarium, aquarium, an international maritime and marine museum, and a cruise terminal.

A hard-to-miss novel red observation tower situated on the Elbe affords an overview of the on-going development in this up and coming district. Guided tours of the "Waterside Living" section take place every Saturday at 3 pm.

The traditional vantage point for looking out over the entire city, St. Michael’s Church, now has a competitor in the High Flyer, a helium balloon, which ascends to a height of 150 meters and can transport 30 passengers in its cab.

Airbus Factory
Credit: Edwin C. Fancher

Topping the list of most sought after tourist experiences are the ones on the water--the harbor, the Elbe and the Alster. Ferry and steamship cruises with different routes and varied themes sail from spring through fall.

The Reeperbahn, traditionally Europe’s premier red-light district now offers a wider range of entertainment—yuppie bars and discos, ethnic restaurants, and music clubs. The Beatles got their start in Hamburg, but the clubs in which they played are no longer open. Nevertheless, "The Beatles in St. Pauli – Magical Musical Tour" guides fans to the sites of their former haunts.

"Vox Pop, Six Guys, Six Voices, No Limits," another musical group from the British Isles, played in Hamburg during our visit at Fliegende Bauten, a dinner club. The show was good, the food not so good. Skip the eats and go for the entertainment. New acts are booked regularly.

All over Germany the theme of the World Cup is "A Time to Make Friends." This hospitable slogan along with all the painting, polishing and sprucing up is meant to say, "Visitors welcome (anytime)"


Spring, 2006