By Bill Wilson
Business reporter, BBC News, Nuremberg
The Beautiful Fountain vanished behind 780 football stadium seats
The picturesque Bavarian city of Nuremberg is readying itself for the 2006 football World Cup, looking forward to finding itself in the international spotlight and welcoming thousands of overseas fans.
However, there is one element of the tournament that is not proving so popular in the conservative town, and that is Nuremberg's role as the national promoter of modern art during the tournament.
The city has installed a sculpture by artist Olaf Metzel that has covered up one of the city's most-loved landmarks, the Schoener Brunnen, or Beautiful Fountain, with a double-helix of 780 chairs removed from Berlin's Olympic Stadium.
Any worries about potential football hooligans coming from England - they play Trinidad & Tobago in Nuremberg - have been overshadowed by the fountain row.
Locals fear the treatment of one of its favourite tourist spots means the city will not be shown off in its best light.
Nuremberg citizens have been up in arms at the work by Munich artist Olaf Metzel and have been leaving notes and pictures of protest pinned to the artworks' outer fencing.
The 17m-tall sculpture is called Auf Wiedersehen and is one of several sculptures by contemporary artists commissioned across the region for the World Cup.
The plan to cover up the fountain - built in 1385 - for six weeks has been causing a storm of debate in Nuremberg, with the local paper receiving 600 letters in protest, and a smaller number in favour.
Regina Weckstroem Besser, a guide with the Bundesverband der Gaestefuehrer Deutschland visitor organisation, said: "Every day there is controversy about this work of art.
"The football authorities wanted one of the host venue cities to be a centre for modern art, and Nuremberg was accepted for this."
The fountain as it usually is seen
The 400,000-euro project - called The Large Piece of Turf (Das Grosse Rasenstueck) - is co-organised by the City of Nuremberg and the German Football Association (DFB).
The city says it is a chance for Nuremberg to host a series of "spectacular as well as rather pensive, quiet works, forming an unusual contrast to the homely medieval backdrop of the city".
Other works include a series of large-sized outdoor photographs, showing football goals in different social settings.
Explaining the meaning behind the fountain work, a city guide says: "Metzel enclosed the Beautiful Fountain in a sculpture made from stadium seats, creating a dynamic and aggressive confrontation between venues of 'high' and 'low' culture."
However, it appears that Nurembergers want their homely city back as it was, at least as far as the fountain is concerned.
'Show off fountain'
Andreas Franke, a journalist at the Nuernberger Nachrichten newspaper, said: "The old fountain is part of the heart of Nuremberg.
THE SCHOENER BRUNNEN
Means "Beautiful Fountain" in English
Located in the Hauptmarkt
Erected in 1385
A Gothic church spire design
Pyramid with 40 figures
Figures include seven Imperial Electors
Medieval heroes, philosophers and evangelists also figured
Replaced with replica in early 20th Century
"With so many guests coming from Germany and other parts of the world, people wanted to be able to show off the fountain to visitors, and explain the history of the city.
"Now it will remain covered over until after the World Cup. Another problem is that people say they had not been given any prior warning about what was going to happen."
He adds: "Our newspaper has carried hundreds of letters on this issue, with the majority against the artwork."
But those who support the piece point out that in fact the fountain as it stands does not contain a single original stone, with just a few original soft sandstone fragments now kept in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum.
"And this is supposed to be the Beautiful Fountain?" asks the Duke
The present limestone copy was built between 1897 and 1902.
And Mrs Weckstroem Besser says: "When people get their fountain back again they will see it in a different way.
"I think it is quite a good idea. After being covered up, then the people can discover their fountain again."
However, for now, most Nuremberg citizens are waiting eagerly for 10 July, the day after the World Cup final, so they can say their own Auf Wiedersehen to the artwork.
Until then, the beautiful game will continue to deprive them of their beautiful fountain.