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FIFA: "No" to Opening Gala at 2006 World Cup


Rafa

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BERLIN (Reuters) - The World Cup opening gala in Berlin has been cancelled just five months before the tournament because staging the event could damage the playing surface needed at the Olympic Stadium, FIFA said on Friday.

However a German newspaper will report on Saturday that the first-ever opening gala, rather than a short opening ceremony, has been cancelled after four years of planning and preparations because of rising costs and sluggish ticket sales.

According to a report to appear in Berliner Zeitung newspaper on Saturday, the gala is off because the costs kept rising above its 25 million euro (17 million pounds) budget and because ticket sales for the ceremony in the Olympic Stadium were sluggish.

But in a statement, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said the gala had been cancelled on strictly sporting grounds.

The gala was scheduled to be held on June 7 with the first match at the stadium to be played on June 13 when world champions Brazil face Croatia.

"Personally, I still think the idea of holding such a high-profile opening event is a good one," said Blatter.

"FIFA has not taken the decision to cancel the event at such a late stage lightly, but as world football's governing body, we must put sporting considerations first."

The statement expressed concerns about whether a new pitch to replace the grass trampled in the opening ceremony would be in satisfactory condition to play group matches just six days later.

"It has since become clear that there would be considerable risks involved, not only in dismantling the stages and the event's technical installations in time but also in laying a new pitch, which has to be in perfect playing condition by June 12," FIFA said.

Performers were to include American soprano Jessye Norman, U.S. band Black Eyed Peas, Algerian singer Cheb Khaled and around 5,000 volunteers.

Long aware of the turf problem, FIFA already rescheduled the gala ceremony and the first group match in Berlin last year to give an extra 48 hours to lay down new rolls of grass and give the turf time to take hold.

The late decision to scrap the ceremony is a bitter blow to Germany's organising committee just days after a German consumer protection agency, Stiftung Warentest, warned that there were serious safety concerns at all 12 World Cup venues.

SKETCHY OUTLINES

The gala's artistic director, Austrian Andre Heller, had auditioned and trained a cast of more than 5,000 volunteers for the spectacle, which was first planned by the German government and then taken over by FIFA.

There were only sketchy outlines of the cultural opening ceremony but Heller used key figures involved in planning the opening ceremony for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney for his inspiration.

"It is with a great sense of sadness that I leave my exciting work for the FIFA World Cup gala in Berlin," Heller said in a statement."

Previous World Cups have held opening ceremonies. They typically lasted about an hour immediately before the first match.

The opening gala idea was conceived four years ago when Blatter, then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, organising committee president Franz Beckenbauer and others met Heller at Lake Garda in Italy to discuss cultural programmes to run parallel to the tournament.

The German government was originally planning to put together the opening ceremony on its own at a cost of about 22.0 million euros before FIFA said in October 2004 it would take over the costs and sponsorship of the event.

Blatter said at the time he did not think football purists would object to a separate opening ceremony.

"Football fans want to see matches," Blatter told journalists in Berlin at a news conference then.

"They don't want speeches, they want a few songs and they want to see football. We thought long and hard about it and this wasn't a snap decision.

"Football and culture belong together, that fits into FIFA's philosophy. It began as a little flirt and now it's turned into a love affair. It's going to be a great football party and players will naturally be invited."

FIFA boots World Cup opening gala off the agenda

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I am really disappointed about the decision, because I had a ticket for the Opening Gala. I was so happy to get the opportunity to see the spectacle- and now nothing. I just get my money back.

I heard that, they just have sold few ticktes. But that´s no miracle. The Gala was planned for just 90 min and the tickets were too expensive. I had a ticket of the middle category for 150 Euro!!!!

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This is, sadly, another chapter in the history of embarrassing events around the Football World Cup in Germany. First the series of streakers at the Confederations Cup, then the ticket dispute, the report about the safety flaws in the stadia and the stroppy response of the organising committee to that report, and now this!

It's an absolute nonsense argument of FIFA to cancel the opening gala because of possible damages to the playing surface. I mean, the gala should be staged no less than six days before the first world cup match in Berlin. At the Summer Olympics, the athletic events usually start only seven days after the opening ceremony -- and I never had the impression that the grass was still damaged from the opening ceremony when the athletic events kicked off. Additionally, you could cover the grass to give it a little bit more protection (like at Barcelona's, Atlanta's and Sydney's opening ceremonies) or even remove the grass completely for the gala and then replant it (like in Athens 2004). So, why these stup*d lies on part of FIFA?

And if the costs should be the real reason for the cancellation, then I ask myself whether FIFA couldn't have tried to hire more sponsors to cover the higher expenses before blowing everything off without any warning.

I still have the impression that Sepp Blatter is embittered because his favourite South Africa lost the election for the 2006 World Cup against Germany -- and so he wants to take a little bit of revenge before the World Cup kicks off.

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They should never have had the idea in the first place.

Why that? Could you concretise that?

My opinion is that having an opening gala was a very appropriate idea -- since the FIFA World Cup is the second-biggest sports event (after the Olympics). When even a relatively small event like the Commonwealth Games has its opening ceremony, then why not the FIFA World Cup?

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I went to the OC at Seoul for WC 2002, and it wasn't a very big affair _ only about 45 minutes to an hour and then the game! It certainly doesn't lend itself to a big Olympics-type affair. Maybe if they had ALL the teams march in, but then again, that might be delusions of grandeur.
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i think south africa will stop at nothing to ensure an opening ceremony in 2010....olympic style and all....talks are already underway to include many top footballers of our era in the ceremony along with kids...etc....the ceremony is envisioned to be very festive which could mean ten million things....the opening ids prob set for durban (60,000) or soccer city (110,000)...opening ceremony if held before the opening match shud be included in the price for the opening game....or lowere drastically to ensure everyone attends...HOWever....the 2010 opening ceremony in south africa if tickets are reasonably priced will be sold out...south africans arent going to miss out on filling the 110,000 stadium....
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Anyway, what was planned for the German OC that would have wrecked the pitch? The OC in Seoul certainly didn't stop the opening game going ahead (or maybe France blamed the OC for them being beaten by Senegal).
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The would've-been 2006 Opening Ceremony in Berlin was a grander replacement for the Three Tenors concerts which preceded the previous 3 WCs (Italy 1990, USA 1994 and France 1998).  However, certainly the 3 Latin operatic superstar tenors could not go on indefinitely, so WC-2006 and FIFA thought a concert/Ceremony of another kind would be a good sub.  Unfortunately, they didn't plan far enough -- and of course, only involved Ric Birch in its early planning stages.
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Anyway, what was planned for the German OC that would have wrecked the pitch? The OC in Seoul certainly didn't stop the opening game going ahead (or maybe France blamed the OC for them being beaten by Senegal).

You obviously confuse the planned opening gala in Germany this year with the opening ceremony practised shortly before the opening matches at previous FIFA World Cups.

The opening gala (which was cancelled today) should be staged on June 7 in Berlin, i.e. two days before the opening match and would have been the first extensive and separate opening ceremony (similar to the Olympic OCs) in the World Cup history. This gala has nothing to do with the shorter ceremony on the day of the opening match!

And as far as I know, the "traditional" opening ceremony (i.e. the short show segment before the opening match) was planned to be staged additionally, namely on June 9 in Munich. After the cancellation of the opening gala, this shorter "traditional" ceremony will now be the only ceremonial kick-off of this year's World Cup.

Regarding your question what was planned for the World Cup opening gala: Jessye Norman, the Black Eyed Peas and Algerian singer Cheb Khaled should perform and also 132 former world champions (including Diego Maradona and Pelé) should make an appearance. 6500 volunteers scheduled for the gala. These are the only details I know so far.

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Thanks for that _ it wasn't clear. Still, the original question stands, why would that have wrecked the pitch? I guess it's more about money saving and FIFA worrying about things getting too grandious than any real concerns about the pitch.
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How many of those 6,500 volunteers have been accepted, I wonder? How many of them have made arrangements at their own expense, such as flights and accomodation and the like? Volunteering can be costly if you are not local to the event. If I had a place confirmed, went ahead and book all my lodgings and so on, for the position to be cancelled and my services not required, I would be furious!
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The bit before the opening game is bad enough. Sounds like they've done the right thing cancelling this other pointless charade.

What does not appeal to you might appeal to someone else, and vice versa. The Gala may not have appealled to the stereotypical or "average" football fan, but it would still have it's audience.

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Thanks for that _ it wasn't clear. Still, the original question stands, why would that have wrecked the pitch? I guess it's more about money saving and FIFA worrying about things getting too grandious than any real concerns about the pitch.

Whilst I do not have any idea as to what might have been planneed in the gala, I have doubts the about the pitch "excuse". Such stage theatre (ceremonies etc) have taken place on these pitches and there are many ways of avoiding disturbance to the pitch with types of temporary stadia staging.

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Thanks for that _ it wasn't clear. Still, the original question stands, why would that have wrecked the pitch? I guess it's more about money saving and FIFA worrying about things getting too grandious than any real concerns about the pitch.

Oops, sorry - please don't laugh, but I misunderstood the term "wrecking the pitch". I thought that it is a synonym for "surpassing everything that has been before". Well, such things happen when you're not a native English speaker and don't always have a dictionary within reach.  :;):

To answer your question (finally): I don't know what they had planned for the opening gala that could have wrecked the pitch. Additionally, I heard today in German TV that it was planned, anyway, to roll up the grass lanes like a carpet, carry it out of the stadium for the opening gala and replant it afterwards. So it's absolute nonsense that FIFA justified its decision with "possible pitch damages".

So the reason can only be the money.

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The bit before the opening game is bad enough. Sounds like they've done the right thing cancelling this other pointless charade.

What does not appeal to you might appeal to someone else, and vice versa. The Gala may not have appealled to the stereotypical or "average" football fan, but it would still have it's audience.

Who? The people who go there for a freebie?

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The bit before the opening game is bad enough. Sounds like they've done the right thing cancelling this other pointless charade.

What does not appeal to you might appeal to someone else, and vice versa. The Gala may not have appealled to the stereotypical or "average" football fan, but it would still have it's audience.

Who? The people who go there for a freebie?

And still you haven't concretised what's so wrong about an opening gala...

Instead you keep polemising without giving any clue why you do that. But whatever it is: You and I even don't know the exact concept of the gala. That's why I think it's a little bit cocky when you judge the gala so negatively.

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The bit before the opening game is bad enough. Sounds like they've done the right thing cancelling this other pointless charade.

What does not appeal to you might appeal to someone else, and vice versa. The Gala may not have appealled to the stereotypical or "average" football fan, but it would still have it's audience.

Who? The people who go there for a freebie?

There are people who would enjoy a stadium theatre event rather than than the sport... not neccessarily meaning that that is my choice, however there are people that would like to see a ceremony.

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The bit before the opening game is bad enough. Sounds like they've done the right thing cancelling this other pointless charade.

What does not appeal to you might appeal to someone else, and vice versa. The Gala may not have appealled to the stereotypical or "average" football fan, but it would still have it's audience.

Who? The people who go there for a freebie?

And still you haven't concretised what's so wrong about an opening gala...

Instead you keep polemising without giving any clue why you do that. But whatever it is: You and I even don't know the exact concept of the gala. That's why I think it's a little bit cocky when you judge the gala so negatively.

Give me one good reason why there should be one.

All it will probably be is a World Cup take on an Olympic opening ceremony - several hours of various things that are supposed to mean something but nobody can fathom what they possibly could represent before some bloke in a suit says the words we all want to hear to the effect of the tournament starts now, something which could be done in a matter of 30 seconds prior to the first match.

Excuse my cynicism about this, but I really cannot see what the fuss is about.

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Give me one good reason why there should be one.

All it will probably be is a World Cup take on an Olympic opening ceremony - several hours of various things that are supposed to mean something but nobody can fathom what they possibly could represent before some bloke in a suit says the words we all want to hear to the effect of the tournament starts now, something which could be done in a matter of 30 seconds prior to the first match.

Excuse my cynicism about this, but I really cannot see what the fuss is about.

Again, some people enjoy such events. You may not, but that does not mean neither do other. You may see them as pointless, others find them entertaining.

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Again, some people enjoy such events. You may not, but that does not mean neither do other. You may see them as pointless, others find them entertaining.

He is such a drip.  An odd-person-out here where most everyone gets excited by everything else -- all the peripheral pageantry that comes with the event -- and some of the sports itself which can get boring after awhile.  You've seen one 4x100 race whether on the track or on the water --you've seen them all.

I don't know why he even hangs around here.

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Germans try to rescue scrapped gala with alternate fest

Sun 15 Jan, 3:11 PM

BERLIN (Reuters) - Embarrassed and angered by FIFA's cancellation of a World Cup opening gala over concerns it would ruin the pitch at Berlin's Olympic stadium, German political leaders offered alternate locations on Sunday to rescue it.

Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit said he would send soccer's governing body a formal proposal to stage the extravaganza around the Brandenburg Gate that has become a symbol of German unity after the Berlin Wall running in front of it fell in 1989.

Bavarian state premier Edmund Stoiber offered Munich's Olympic stadium, which will not be used for soccer because Munich has a new stadium, as a venue for the first-ever opening gala in planning for four years until FIFA abruptly cancelled.

The ceremony, patterned after opening festivities for the Olympics, was scrapped because 5,000 volunteers would trample the pitch and experts were divided whether it could be replaced and in top condition for a Brazil-Croatia match six days later.

"I will offer FIFA president Joseph Blatter a written proposal to hold an opening festival for the fans on June 7 at the Brandenburg Gate," Wowereit told Der Tagesspiegel newspaper.

"Together, we should now try to make the best out of the situation and allow the German capital city to give an appropriate welcome to the international soccer community."

FIFA on Friday said it cancelled the gala five months before the tournament begins on June 9 because the extravaganza could cause serious damage to the playing surface.

Blatter had said in a statement the decision was made on strictly sporting grounds despite German media reports that the first-ever gala, rather than a short opening ceremony, was scrapped due to disappointing ticket sales and rising costs.

However Blatter told Reuters in Moscow on Saturday the lack of public interest was indeed a factor behind the cancellation.

"To be honest, response from the public was very weak and we have realised football people want to watch football, not galas," Blatter conceded at the opening of the CIS Cup.

"We could not have 12,000 people on the pitch for the gala and then use the same turf for the match on June 12. The problem was that not a single provider would give us guarantees for the proper turf replacement. Nobody would give us these guarantees."

It was another humiliating setback for organisers just days after a German consumer protection agency warned there were serious safety concerns at all 12 World Cup venues.

"Let's use the quarter for fans around the Brandenburg Gate for a great big opening party," said Hanns-Peter Nerger, director of Berlin's tourism marketing agency, in an interview with RBB radio. "It will perhaps be even more fun there."

Nerger said a fest at Brandenburg Gate, where millions of people gather for New Year's Eve celebrations each year, could show the world a "different, friendlier side" of Germany.

The gala was scheduled for June 7, with the first match at the stadium to be played six days later.

Long aware of the turf problem, FIFA last year rescheduled the gala and the first group match in Berlin to give an extra 48 hours to lay down new grass and give the turf time to settle.

There was speculation in Germany that other reasons were behind the decision: The Berliner Zeitung said gala costs kept rising above the budget of 25 million euros ($30 million).

Bild am Sonntag said on Sunday Brazil soccer officials may have pressured FIFA to cancel the gala due to pitch concerns.

Other German officials speculated that artistic differences between Andre Heller may have been part of the reason to cancel.

"It's a lovely idea," Heller told Bild am Sonntag of Wowereit's plan to stage the opening gala in the city centre.

"I'm happy to work on some ideas and be involved so that Berlin gets a wonderful festival. I'll ask my friends Jessye Norman, Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno if they want to help too. I can well imagine they're interested."

(Additional reporting by Volker Warkentin)

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The excuse of the pitch is completly stupid. Professional games were played two days later after big concerts... why Brazil-Croatia couldn't six days after?

I hope Germans could do something as alternative.

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