Get set for a world party

GERMANY, the country that gave the world Oktoberfest, will offer Fan Fest when they stage the Fifa World Cup Finals from June 9-July 9. 

In the same vein as the two-week long festival of merry-making in autumn, it will be fun, fun, fun and lots to cheer for fans during the month-long tournament, beginning with the match between Germany and Costa Rica in Munich, home of Oktoberfest. 

The Finals, which will be played in 12 venues in 12 cities, carries the slogan of “A Time To Make Friends” and for Germany it is a time to bring the world together. 

On the invitation of the German government, a group of journalists from 17 different countries were brought together recently for a two-week “Information Tour” of four of the 12 hosts cities – Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Munich. 

The programme of the tour was set by the Goethe Institut, which has its headquarters in Munich. It is the cultural institution of Germany government with operations worldwide. Among the objectives of the institute are to promote the study of German abroad and to encourage international cultural exchange. 

Some of the journalists who were on the tour.

The programme was drawn up by Simon Haag in Berlin and we had Daniel Szabo de Bucs as the accompanying officer for the duration of the trip. 

The programme included tours of the cities and venues of the World Cup Finals and visits to publications. 

Press conferences included those of the Speaker of the Berlin Senate and head of the Press information office, Mr Michael Donnermeyer , and Frankfurt Mayor Joachim Vandreike. 

We also had the opportunity to watch Hertha Berlin in training and a Bundesliga match between Germany's most famous club side Bayern Munich and FC Cologne. 

Rivalry is keen among the host cities and each has drawn up elaborate programmes for the World Cup. 

Fan Fest in Berlin will be on June 17 and the capital city of Germany expects to draw 100,000 visitors daily. Matches will be telecast on several giant television screens on the road between the Brandenburg Gate, where the Berlin Wall once stood, and the Victory Pillar. 

Adidas will also build a replica of the Berlin Olympic Stadium, on a 1:10 scale, on the lawn in front of the Reichstag building, which houses the Bundestag (Parliament). 

The mini stadium will have a capacity for 9,000 fans and there will be two giant TV screens for them to soak in the atmosphere of the matches. Outside the stadium, there will be mini pitches for the public to play the game for a fee. 

Berlin will also stage an “unofficial” opening ceremony of the Finals at the Brandenburg Gate on June 7, two days before the opening match in Munich. This followed Fifa's decision to cancel the opening gala at the Berlin Olympic Stadium for fear of the pitch being damaged by the performers of the ceremony. 

In the promotion of the World Cup, Deutsche Telekom have turned the globe on their Television Tower into a giant football. 

Germany also want to present themselves as the “Land of Ideas” and their “Walk of Ideas” through Berlin will have six huge sculptures on the route to reflect the great ideas and inventiveness of the Germans. 

The first of the sculptures, the Modern Football Shoes, is already on dislay. The others to be put up ahead of the World Cup are the Medical Milestones, the Automobile, Modern Printing, Musical Masterpieces and the Theory of Relativity. 

The next stop of our tour was Hamburg and it was a quick and comfortable one-and-a-half-hour ride on the Inter City Express (ICE) train from Berlin. 

We learnt in Hamburg that the main public viewing gallery for the World Cup and Fan Fest will be on Helliggeistfeld, a square used as a fair ground in the St Pauli District, and it will hold 50,000 spectators.  

The day's tour of Hamburg also took in the AOL Arena, the venue for the World Cup matches, and catching Fifa president Joseph Blatter signing the Town Hall's Golden Book. 

Frankfurt will use their city skyline to highlight their cultural programme for the Finals. A three-night overture to the World Cup will be held between June 3 and 5. 

From 11pm each night, there will be a show of lights, sight and sound on the Sky Arena. Images of football legends and stars, emotions and defining moments of World Cup matches, art and music will be beamed on 11 high-rise buildings. 

Public viewing of the games is along the River Main. Matches will be telecast on a screen, measuring 16m in length and nine metres in height, on the middle of the river. Stands will also be erected on the banks of the river to accommodate 15,000 spectators and it will give them a real stadium atmosphere. 

Frankfurt, being the gateway to air traffic for Germany, are expecting an influx of visitors, especially with England, Holland and Argentina having matches at the Commerzbank Arena and defending champions Brazil making the outskirt town of Konigstein their training base. 

Frankfurt Airport are ready for it and will built a special designated World Cup terminal to receive the teams and also chartered flights of the tournament's fraternity. 

In Munich, matches will be played at the Europe's newest football stadium, the Allianz Arena. And this leaves the Olympic Park, which was built for the 1972 Munich Games, open for the World Cup organisers to stage Fan Fest there. 

A 60-metre square video wall will be mounted on a stage in the middle of the lake for fans to catch matches live. 

One of the high points of our tour was getting to watch the match between top-of-the-table Bayern Munich and basement side Cologne, live at the Allianz Arena. 

Among the stars we saw in action were Bayern's Michael Ballack and Oliver Kahn and Cologne's Lukas Podokski. 

The match ended in a 2-2 draw and goalkeeper Kahn let in two soft goals in the first half and was replaced Michael Rensing. 

The two blunders by Kahn probably cost him the number one jersey in the German team for the World Cup. Last week, the German manager, Juergen Klinsman, opted for Arsenal's Jens Lehmann to be his first-choice goalkeeper. 

The last day of the tour took the group to the Adidas headquarters in Herzogenaurach and it was my second visit there after 22 years. 

With time lacking, the visit to the Nuremberg stadium for the World Cup had to be dropped for the programme and it ended with a visit to the popular football magazine, Kicker

At the head office of the magazine in Nuremberg, we were given a briefing by its managing editor, Jorg Jakob. Kicker is published twice a week and has an average circulation of 250,000 copies for its Monday edition and 230,000 for its Thursday issue. 

The other publications we took in on our tour earlier in Berlin were another football magazine, 11 Freunde, and the daily newspaper Der Tagesspiegel. In Frankfurt we were also at the office of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which has a distinct feature of not having a photograph on the front page. 

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