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World Cup: Germany’s time to make friends

From Enock Muchinjo in Berlin, Germany

GERMANY is a country conscious of its brutal past — so much so that every opportunity is taken to correct the image of Germans as hostile to foreigners.

The football World Cup in Germany next year has provided a wonderful opportunity for the football-crazy European nation to open up to the world and present Germany as member of the global family.

A lot has changed in Germany since the Cold War. After much of the country was destroyed during the Second World War, Germans picked themselves up and rebuilt their cities at a pace that is probably unequalled in history.

Towards the World Cup, the world’s biggest and most popular sporting event, issues like high security against terrorism, steps to curb racism and improve transport are being prioritised.

The theme, or motto, for the tournament is “A time to make friends”. In order to make as much friends as possible, taxi drivers will undergo training to be polite to customers, while police officers will receive English courses.

Transport-wise, German cities like Berlin and Munich boast the world’s best transport systems with their timely local buses and subway commuter trains. The inter-city transport is fast, frequent and reliable. The three million fans or so expected to descend on the 12 German cities hosting this famous showcase will be able to move smoothly to the match venues.

And if you are lucky to travel for the World Cup next year and you can’t find your way around, don’t hesitate to ask if you see Germans with tags written “ask me, I know” on their chests.

Government support is key to the successful hosting of any international tournament. The German federal government, through the Ministry of the Interior, has done almost everything, with three billion euros being spent on transport and the widening of roads.

Journalists from Malaysia, Ghana, Taiwan, Vietnam, Gabon, Australia, Senegal and Zimbabwe visited the renovated Olympic Stadium here in Berlin on Monday where the World Cup final will be played. The stadium was reconstructed for a cost of two hundred million euros.

Built in 1936, the Olympic Stadium was used by Hitler for his propaganda purposes at the time. In the southern end of the arena, an opening was left to reveal the Mayfield Tower, which is at the edge of a ground where Hitler held his rallies.

The Olympic Stadium did not get any matches in the 1974 World Cup when Germany hosted the event, since the west and east divisions of the city had not been unified.

Other stadiums in the other parts of Germany look elegant. At the Olympic Stadium, it was decided that it keeps its ancient appearance, so as you approach the stadium it looks unimpressive, inside, the multi-purpose venue is breath-taking, and should be up there among the best in the world.

They have roped in the legendary Franz Beckenbauer as the president of the Organising Committee of the World Cup. Beckenbauer, who is also the president of Germany’s Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, is one of only two men to win the World Cup twice, as a player and as a coach.

About 30 billion fans worldwide are expected to watch the World Cup on television, two million more than those that watched the last tournament in Korea and Japan three years ago.

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