But with every fever comes a headache -- and one of migraine proportions has hit Germany's World Cup organizing committee on Tuesday.
Stiftung Warentest -- Germany's independent consumer watchdog group which inspects the quality of products ranging from olive oil to automobiles -- on Tuesday released the results of a probe into the safety of the 12 soccer stadiums scheduled to host World Cup games this summer. The group found four stadiums to have "considerable deficiencies" including the Olympic Stadium in Berlin where the World Cup final is to be held on July 9. Four additional stadiums were slapped with the "clear deficiencies" label.
Stiftung Warentest especially focused on fire-protection measures and emergency evacuation plans in its study. The Berlin stadium -- built by the Nazis for the 1936 Olympic Games -- was criticized for having limited possibilities for the crowd to flee onto the field should it become necessary due to a three-meter deep ditch surrounding the field. Other stadiums were likewise criticized for their evacuation routes. The consumer protection group hired a panic researcher to help with its inspections.
The study has unleashed a storm of protest by German World Cup organizers who say that all the stadiums to be used in the tournament are safe and were inspected prior to being chosen. Wolfgang Niersbach, vice president of the German organizing committee, pointed out that the stadiums are used week after week for German soccer matches and Champions League games with no problems to date.
Franz Beckenbauer, head of the organizing committee, went even further in an interview with the mass-circulation tabloid Bild prior to the test results being officially presented. "I've had enough of this army of know-it-alls and busy-bodies who want to use the World Cup for their own benefit," he raged. "The Stiftung Warentest may know all about facial cream, olive oil and vacuum cleaners. But that's where they should stop."
Others criticized Stiftung Warentest by saying the group only spent a few hours in each stadium, hardly enough time to make a detailed judgement as to the safety precautions each had to offer.
Nevertheless, a number of German soccer stadiums have had problems in recent months. Rain water poured through the roof of the Frankfurt stadium during a game in June 2005; the stadium in Kaiserslautern was closed temporarily after cracks were found in the roof at the beginning of last month; and the northern seats in the Nuremberg stadium had to be stabilized after they were found to sway back and forth. All three stadiums are to be used during the World Cup.