Frankfurt hills to come alive with sand and samba
KOENIGSTEIN IM TAUNUS, Germany, May 3: Beach volleyball, cocktail bars and samba will turn a small town in Germany into a piece of Brazil for two weeks next month.
The World Cup holders will use Koenigstein, tucked in the hills 25 km from Germany's financial capital Frankfurt, as the base to kick off their 2006 campaign.
Up to 10,000 visitors a day are expected to flock to the cobbled streets of the spa resort in the hope of seeing the heroes of world soccer, although strict security means the chance of laying eyes on Ronaldo or Ronaldinho are very slim.
The expected tidal wave of soccer fans has unsettled some locals, who will have to cope with road closures and traffic snarls, not to mention loud music and partying.
Still, the town is determined to put on a good show. Local official Klaus Hallert, one of a team responsible for the preparations, says a square adjoining the main shopping street will be transformed into a beach party with a stage, lounge chairs, ball games and food and drink stalls for fans to try local German delicacies as well as traditional Brazilian ''caipirinha'' cocktails.
''I don't know about the biggest caipirinha bar in the world, but it will definitely be the biggest in Koenigstein,'' he said.
From June 5-16, the 60-strong Brazilian delegation has booked out the luxury Kempinski Hotel Falkenstein, a former sanatorium which boasts a 1,200-square-metre health and beauty centre and six hectares of parkland on the outskirts of Koenigstein.
The stay at the Kempinski, where double rooms cost 350 to 999 euros (435-1,242 dollars) a night, covers Brazil's first game against Croatia in Berlin on June 13, and the team have an option to return for the quarter-finals in Frankfurt on July 1.
Hotel director Cyrus Heydarian said staff were learning Portuguese from a Brazilian co-worker and were looking forward to hosting the fun-loving team.
Brazil fever has certainly hit. The local adult education college is offering courses in Brazilian Portuguese, the soccer team dons yellow, green and blue ''Brazil-look'' shirts for away games, and shop windows sport Brazilian flags and football-themed decorations.
Businesses in the town, which boasts one of the highest average incomes in Germany and almost 100 millionaires among its 18,000 residents, are hoping for a bonanza.
''It's going to be good for business,'' said local restaurateur Alex Tsingirdaklis, who is hiring 15 more staff and plans to turn his Latin-American locale, Bahia Latino, into a bar offering Brazilian snacks, drinks, and music. ''But I also hope it will bring a bit more life into the town, that there will be a lot of dancing and singing -- Germany is not usually very good at joie de vivre.'' Hallert said the biggest headache for organisers, besides security, was uncertainty about how many visitors to expect.
Some 5,000 Brazilian fans have booked hotels in Cologne but may visit Koenigstein once or twice; the Brazilians news conferences and training sessions are expected to draw about 500 journalists; and then there are countless German and international fans who will also want to be part of the action.
''We have been told to prepare for between 2,000 and 10,000 visitors a day. That's a big difference, obviously,'' Hallert said.
Organisers, who have budgeted 500,000 euros for the two-week spectacle, are hoping to minimise the chaos by arranging for more frequent trains from Frankfurt and maybe shuttle buses to car parks in surrounding villages. But locals will still face disruptions to their daily routine.
''The locals are a little bit under stress at the moment, especially the Falkensteiners because they are going to have to cope with traffic disruptions,'' Hallert said.
''Koenigstein is normally a very quiet, tranquil place and it is going to disturb the peace and quiet for some.'' Visitors have little chance of contact with the players.
Despite upgrades, the local sports ground accommodates only some 4,000 spectators and the Brazilians' compulsory public training session, which could attract up to 30,000 onlookers, will have to be held elsewhere.
Falkenstein councillor Joerg Poeschl, who first brought the town to the attention of German World Cup organisers, said the benefits would outweigh theinconvenience.
''The mood is good, we have pulled off a big coup -- hundreds of cities would have been happy to host the Brazilian team but we are going to do it,'' said Poeschl, who also chairs the local football club and is closely involved in the preparations.
''There will certainly be some disruptions, that's clear, but we have to keep in mind that this is a once-in-a-century event for Koenigstein and the locals will just have to cope with a little bit more traffic around for 14 days.''