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Wednesday, January 28, 1998 Published at 19:49 GMT

Sport: Football

Kick-off at controversial World Cup stadium
image: [ The Stade de France, which will host the World Cup final ]
The Stade de France, which will host the World Cup final

French president Jacques Chirac has officially opened France's controversial new World Cup stadium in front of thousands of fans.

He was joined at the £275m arena by government ministers and Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar for the inauguration match between France and Spain.

The sparkling new Stade de France, which seats 80,000 and incorporates a multiplex cinema, training pitch, offices and conference centre, will be the showpiece of this summer's World Cup.

It will host the opening match between Brazil and Scotland on June 10 and the final two weeks later.

[ image: Police officers check the stadium]
Police officers check the stadium
Spectators began filling the stands for the opening night hours before kick-off on Wednesday evening. Some 1,700 police were called to provide security. Barricades were put up around the ground and traffic in the area was tightly controlled.

The celebratory mood of supporters overshadowed controversy which has dogged the stadium since its inception.

Built on wasteland which for 50 years was home to a gas works, environmentalists have warned the soil is seriously polluted by discharged chemicals, as is the water table underneath it.

The fact that the stadium, built in a little over two years on the northern edge of Paris, is still without a resident club raises fears it will end up a multi-million pound white elephant.

Despite its huge capacity, there are only 6,000 parking spaces. The government has launched a big campaign to get people to use one of three metro links to the ground.

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