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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 18, 2006

Germany urges end to panic over stadium safety

BERLIN, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Germany has survived the past 60 years without disasters at its sports stadiums and there is no reason to believe that its venues are unsafe despite a recent damning report, Germany's interior ministry said on Wednesday.

'We see no cause for panic or hysteria,' junior interior minister Christoph Bergner told a news conference.

German consumer group Stiftung Warentest has clashed with World Cup organisers after the former issued a report last week condemning four World Cup stadiums as potentially fatal crowd traps.

The group said the stadiums at Gelsenkirchen, Leipzig and final venue Berlin were unprepared for evacuation as there were no exits onto the pitch and Kaiserslautern, where cracks were found in a stand last month, was a fire hazard.

Organisers said the study was unfair, superficial and amounted to scaremongering, adding that all the 12 stadiums had passed stringent safety tests.

Bergner said Stiftung Warentest should be thanked for pointing out possible shortfalls that should be looked into, but added these should not be thought of as grave deficiencies.

'Since 1946, we've not had a catastrophe in German stadiums, the sort of thing Stiftung Warentest has referred to, with corresponding fatalities,' Bergner said.

'I do not think it that likely that there will be a drastic need to act,' he added.

Germany has spent around 1.5 billion euros ($1.82 billion) building or renovating 12 stadiums for the World Cup that kicks off in the new Munich stadium on June 9 and ends in Berlin on July 9.

Bergner said government involvement in the construction of Leipzig's new stadium and renovation at Berlin had now ended and it could not be expected to finance any modifications that may be required.

Tournament organisers argue Stiftung Warentest's demand that crowds be able to flood onto the pitch in an emergency is outdated since modern stadium are designed to steer fans outside.

It has also said that building work at Kaiserslautern was not completed by the time Stiftung Warentest's inspectors arrived.

The consumer group counters that it discussed its planned study with the tournament organisers and the stadiums themselves and been given a clear green light.

Bergner also told the news conference to present the government's World Cup progress report that Germany would host a security conference at the end of March, with representatives from 40 nations as well as FIFA President Sepp Blatter and World Cup organising committee chief Franz Beckenbauer.