Berlin | The Brandenburg Gate becomes the venue for a pre–World Cup “gala” after FIFA axed earlier plans for a star-studded spectacular. Having seen the production values for the Dec 9 draw in Leipzig (see Dec 6), the decision is probably for the best. But the re-think represents the type of PR misstep that, writ large, offers commentators the chance to spin off dire predictions for the event as a whole. Combined with figments and worries about potential hooliganism, unsafe stadia and corrupt ticket allocations, the World Cup seems like one massive problem. The dreaded verb “liaise” has been invoked with relation to the so-called hooligan problem, as the levels of German jurisprudence consider “fast-track” procedures to handle a possible backlog of malfeasance. In Dusseldorf, according to the BBC, “[r]eports suggest the proceedings will not be in writing, charges will be oral and witnesses will not be required.” The organization Fair Trails Abroad—established to advocate for citizens from EU countries charged with crime while traveling—objects to the proposals. Here is where the liaising comes in. The U.K. has established a football attache in Berlin; liaising also continues with potential hooligan suppliers, such as the Netherlands and Germany itself.
One is free to take a position, of course, on whether the World Cup will be a disaster or the “greatest World Cup ever.” There does not seem to be any alternative. Criticism from consumer watchdogs Stiftung Warentest of fire-protection and evacuation measures at several venues has been shot down by organizers. But, according to Spiegel Online, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung balks at “[t]he crass strategy of portraying critics as traitors daring to scratch at Germany’s football shrines.” The Olympic Stadium in Berlin in particular, with three-meter-deep trenches between seats and the pitch, has received special notice for the difficulties fans would have evacuating onto the field. Aesthetes in the German capital also mull whether the â‚¬225 million retrofit has sufficiently altered the Nazi taint. “I hope they don’t show very much of the outside of the stadium and the architecture but only the inside and the grass where they are playing,” says architect Kay Zareh, concerned about the impact on TV viewers.
That stadium really tries to impress and intimidate, to make a person feel little and timid. I know they’ve changed it but it will always be what it stands for. . . . I would prefer to have the old stadium as a ruin, not as the “perfect sporting arena.”
A â‚¬3 million exhibition about the stadium’s Nazi past, created by the Deutsches Historisches Museum, forms part of the redesign.
Charges of cronyism in ticket distributions seem the most disturbing to date, but the problem is certainly not unique to this World Cup. In Trinidad and Tobago, the Trinidad Express started reporting on CONCACAF president Jack Warner‘s involvement before Christmas last year. Warner appears to have corralled T&T’s ticket allotment so that his travel agency, Simpaul Travel Services Ltd., could bank big profits on package deals. Prime Minister Patrick Manning pledged to intervene, but some are skeptical about the outcome. T&T blogger Taran Rampersad shrugs his shoulders at the allegations: “Cronyism and Nepotism happen here all the time, right or wrong. And right or wrong is usually based on which dominant band of Cronys are running things, with a side order of Nepots.” What to do? Heading back to Berlin, the city fathers (or their sons, the glad-handing PR jockeys) have launched a smile offensive: 465 billboards will bear smiling Berliners, proclaiming, “Das schönste Lächeln fí¼r unsere Gäste” (The nicest smiles for our guests). It’s what one should expect from the Land der Ideen (Land of ideas).