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Opening ceremony of the World Cup 2006Source: REGIERUNGonline / Guido Bergmann

The FIFA World Cup is upon us

Friday, June 9, 2006

The 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany gets off to a tremendous start in Munich. At the official opening ceremony in the Munich Arena Federal President Horst Köhler said, "Finally we can start!". Germany beat Costa Rice 4-2 in the opening game.

"We look forward to seeing exciting games, a lot of goals and fair play. May football bring nations closer together", Köhler said. At 16.52 the Federal President declared the 2006 World Cup open; about one hour before the kick-off of the opening match between Germany and Costa Rica.

Germany and its visitors celebrate together

At the opening ceremony almost 160 World Cup winners from seven continents marched into the stadium. This included stars such as Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer and Sir Bobby Charlton.

Köhler, Blatter, and BeckenbauerSource: REGIERUNGonline / Guido Bergmann

"Football Germany" was in a party mood: There were Fan Fests and World Cup parties all over Germany using over 200 giant screens.

Magnificent prelude in Munich

The event in the Munich stadium opened with a mix of pop and tradition. Drummers were joined by Bavarian whip-crackers, so called "Goaßlschnalzer", plus hip-hop artists and break dancers.

Claudia Schiffer and football legend Pelé carried the World Cup trophy onto the stage. At this magnificent party, hosted by Thomas Gottschalk, 1,400 dancers and musicians helped to put the crowd in a World Cup mood with a thirty minute show.

The eighteenth FIFA World Cup is the second great football event in Germany, following on from the 1974 finals. The World Cup curator André Heller enjoyed the opening ceremony.

Chancellor Merkel: A great crowd

Chancellor Angela Merkel attended the opening ceremony and game along with Federal Minister of the Interior Wolfgang Schäuble, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal Minister of Labour Franz Müntefering, Federal Minister of Defence Franz Josef Jung and Federal Minister of Economics Michael Glos.

The German chancellor Angela Merkel during the opening matchSource: REGIERUNGonline / Guido Bergmann

After the final whistle Chancellor Merkel declared, "I am happy with our win": "We have seen a great opening game with lots of goals." Opening matches are normally dominated by both teams adopting a careful approach to the game – this did not happen tonight, Merkel commented: "We have seen two very competitive teams. I was particularly impressed by the crowd who got fully involved and were fair throughout the match."

A safe and peaceful start to the World Cup

The opening ceremony saw a large-scale security operation. The police deployed 3,000 officers and the air space was protected by NATO Awacs aircraft and German interceptors.

Before the opening ceremony started spectators entered the stadium in a calm and peaceful manner. According to the police there were no arrests made in and around the stadium. And no dangerous weapons were confiscated. All ticket-holders were let into the World Cup stadium without a hitch. A police spokesman, describing the atmosphere in and around the stadium, commented, "There's just a great, calm and peaceful atmosphere".

During the four-week World Cup tournament 32 teams will play 64 matches. In the coming 31 match days billions of people worldwide will watch the games on television. On 9 July the World Cup trophy will be presented to the winners of the Final which is to be held in Berlin.

Picture of a Dutch fan and a small girl wearing the shirt of the French national team