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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 January 2006, 18:52 GMT
Germany starts Cup safety inquiry
Olympiastadion, Berlin
Berlin's stadium faces exit issues, according to a consumer group
A parliamentary inquiry began in Berlin on Wednesday into claims that four of the venues for this year's World Cup in Germany are unsafe.

German consumer group Stiftung Warentest heavily criticised the grounds in Berlin, Gelsenkirchen, Leipzig and Kaiserslautern last week.

Its report talks of leaking roofs and fire hazards and, most critically, escape routes in panic situations.

The World Cup Organising Committee hotly disputes the findings.

The organisers were represented at the inquiry by vice-president Horst R Schmidt, who has argued that the preparations for June's footballing showpiece had never been more stringent.

The Stiftung Warentest is one expert opinion and there are a lot of other experts that say exactly the opposite
Olympic Stadium spokeman Christophe Meyer
At the meeting, they described the report as superficial and negligent, calling some of the consumer group's conclusions erroneous and taken out of context.

Stiftung Warentest, also attending the inquiry, said in its report that four of the 12 stadiums have serious safety issues.

It described Gelsenkirchen, Leipzig and Berlin, which will host the final, as having inadequate escape routes for fans in the event of an emergency evacuation.

Spokeswoman Michelle Stanley said of the Olympic Stadium in Berlin: "There is a moat between the spectators and the playing field and there is no way of getting across - and, in the case of a panic, people automatically flee forwards so there would be a tremendous build-up.

"I would hate to think what would happen in the worse case, it would be catastrophic.

But officials at the Olympic Stadium see temporary bridges, which could be manhandled into place, as the solution to the moat issue.

It's always a problem when you have a stadium ... you don't neccessarily think what would happen if panic did break out
Stiftung Warentest spokeswoman Michelle Stanley
Stadium spokesman Christophe Meyer told BBC Radio Five: "We tested only once those bridges and I'm quite sure when the World Cup is here everything in the forefront will be done to make this stadium a secure and safe place with these bridges or with another solution.

"The public is a little bit afraid now but you have to imagine it is not the only way you can leave the stadium.

"The Stiftung Warentest is one expert opinion and there are a lot of other experts that say exactly the opposite."

Stiftung Warentest believes its report has already prompted some useful debate about making the stadia, especially Berlin, safer.

"There's been some discussion that the moat should be filled, extra emergency gates should be built into the moat walls, but that's still being considered at the present stage," added Stanley.

"I think that people often have to have things pointed out to them to become aware of them.

"It's always a problem when you have a stadium. The stadium is new, modern, clean, it's impressive and you don't neccessarily think what would happen if panic did break out."

German socialist MP and head of the German parliamentary sports commission, Peter Danckhert, is angry that the findings have come out so close to the tournament:

"I'm very much disappointed about the results of this research," said Danckhert.

"Especially the two stadiums in Berlin and Leipzig, who has been rebuilt and reconstructed with a lot of money from the German Parliament.

"I hope that within some weeks all those problems can be solved. You see the final will take place in Berlin and there must be a solution for these problems."




SEE ALSO
Calls for fresh Cup safety review
17 Jan 06 |  World Cup 2006
Beckenbauer hits back over venues
11 Jan 06 |  World Cup 2006


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