Row erupts over 'unsafe' World Cup stadiums report
10 January 2006, BERLIN - Eight of the 12 stadiums to be used for the 2006 football World Cup are unsafe, four of them in a major way, a German consumer foundation said on Tuesday.
10 January 2006
BERLIN - Eight of the 12 stadiums to be used for the 2006 football World Cup are unsafe, four of them in a major way, a German consumer foundation said on Tuesday.
The World Cup organising committee (OC) conceded that minor improvements were needed but also spoke of "panic-mongering", while German interior minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the recommendations must be carefully looked into without any hysteria.
The Stiftung Warentest foundation said that Berlin's Olympic stadium (which is due to host the July 9 World Cup final) and the arenas in Gelsenkirchen and Leipzig had considerable construction deficits which could lead to devastating consequences in a case of mass panic amongst spectators.
Kaiserslautern's stadium has considerable deficits in the fire protection area, the report to be published in the February issue of Stiftung Warentest's magazine, Test, said.
The foundation said that the other stadiums with "distinct" safety deficits are those in Hamburg, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Dortmund.
The only stadiums which passed a Stiftung Warentest inspection, even though they also had minor deficits, were those in Munich, Cologne, Nuremberg and Hanover.
"I believe the World Cup can take place. But a lot must happen that we are good hosts," said Hubertus Primus, Test's editor in chief.
The main deficits named by Stiftung Warentest concern a lack of gates allowing fans to escape the tribunes on to the playing field in the case of an emergency. In Berlin and Leipzig a ditch between the field and stands effectively prevents spectators from leaving the stands on to the field. Long escape routes and steep tribunes were also named.
The head of Germany's parliamentary sports commission, Peter Danckert, said that "the deficits must be corrected swiftly to make the stadiums safe" and Schaeuble called for a joint effort of OC, the construction ministry and local authorities.
The OC insisted in a statement: "The safety of the spectators is not endangered in the Bundesliga games and therefore also not at the upcoming World Cup."
The 12 stadiums were newly built or modernised at a cost in the region of 1.5 billion euros (1.8 billion dollars) since Germany won the right to host the World Cup in 2000.
The OC said the deficits named by Stiftung Warentest went far beyond Germany's strict construction laws and also created the wrong impression that immediate action was needed.
"The OC welcomes every recommendation which improves the conditions and the hosting of the fantastic World Cup 2006 project. But we fight unnecessary panic-mongering which only confuses the fans and damages the image of the World Cup in Germany," said OC vice-president Wolfgang Niersbach.
Stiftung Warentest, which said the deficits also violated rules of the world governing football body FIFA, said through its representative Holger Brackemann said: "We did ask ourselves why such construction was approved."
According to OC vice-president Horst R. Schmidt, FIFA fully trusts the OC even though FIFA boss Joseph Blatter in December spoke of a "red alert" situation in the wake of stadium problems in Kaiserslaautern, Nuremberg and Frankfurt.
"I spoke with FIFA general secretary Urs Linsi yesterday and he said 'don't panic, we trust you to solve your problems'", said Schmidt.
OC boss Franz Beckenbauer, meanwhile in an interview with Tuesday's edition of the Bild daily, slammed Stiftung Warentest ahead of the publication of their report, and others as well for causing problems for the OC in such areas as ticket sales.
"I have had enough of this army of wiseacres and pompous people who want to make a name for themselves through the World Cup. Stiftung Warentest may be familiar with facial lotions, olive oil and vacuum cleaners. They should keep it that way," Beckenbauer fumed.
Stiftung Warentest conceded that the likelihood of a mass panic was very low, but that some 1,500 people had died in football stadiums around the world in more than 60 major incidents since the end of World War II.
Subject: German news