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Temple theme, burning of the jinx

The old stadium at Hamburg was demolished to be replaced by an ultramodern, oval-shaped 'temple'.

india Updated: May 19, 2006 14:24 IST
DPA

"It's a refrigerator," complained then German football manager Franz Beckenbauer, referring to the old stadium in Hamburg where the National team lost 2-1 to arch-rivals Holland at the 1988 European Championships.

It seemed then that there would never be a home advantage for the German team in Hamburg.

It was not the first time that the German team had suffered a resounding defeat in that stadium. At the 1974 World Cup, the East German team upset the heavily favoured hosts 1-0.

The loss did have its good side, however, since the West Germans avoided meeting Brazil in the next round and went on to earn their second world title.

But this is all now history and Hamburg would like to erase the past and inaugurate a new era at this new championship on home soil. With this in mind, a new, ultramodern stadium, planned well before FIFA picked Germany to host the 2006 World Cup, has replaced the old structure.

Demolition of the old Volksparkstadion, erected in 1953 on ruins in the west of the city caused by World War II bombing, began in 1998. In its place arose a modern, oval-shaped 'temple' at a cost of 97 million euros.

The playing field was turned by 90 degrees to permit greater sunshine to reach the grass, and the completely rebuilt stands are now completely protected by the roof.

The Hamburg stadium has a gross capacity of 51,055 spectators that will translate into seating capacity of 45,442 for the World Cup. Wealthy fans will be able to enjoy the matches from some of the 50 private boxes, each of which can accommodate between 10 and 20 people.

The stadium also has a museum and a restaurant, as well as a giant, four-ton bronze sculpture of the foot of German football legend Uwe Seeler, who is honorary president of his old club SV Hamburg.

UEFA has raised the rating of the AOL Arena, as it is normally called after its sponsor, to the five-star category, the maximum possible. Hamburg will be the site of four first-round matches and one quarter-final.