The draw to determine first-round match-ups for the 2006 World Cup football finals in Germany will be held this coming Friday (December 9) in Leipzig, one of the 12 cities that will host games when the tournament begins next June. VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer recently returned from Germany and has a report on some of the preparations for football's premiere event.

This is Berlin's Olympic Stadium, or Olympiastadion, where an opening Gala for the 2006 World Cup will be staged June 7. It is the first time the International Football Federation, FIFA, has planned such an extravaganza to precede the World Cup finals.

As you can see, construction workers are busy outside the stadium getting things ready for the thousands of visitors who will arrive in Germany to be a part of the month-long tournament and festivities. Inside, it's clear that the stadium, built for the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics, has been renovated.

The opening Gala will be held on this field and it actually had to be moved up one day from June 8 to June 7. Berlin World Cup official, former national team player Michael (MEE-shy-ell) Preetz, told VOA that the field needed more recovery time.

"We will have many thousands of people around for this big party here in Berlin, and the field, the grass, will take some days to recover, and that's the reason that we want one day more, to have the field in good condition for the first game here in Berlin."

Berlin will host the first of its six games on June 13, while the opening World Cup match will be staged at this stadium in Munich, nicknamed the spaceship for obvious reasons.

Many visitors for the 2006 World Cup in Germany will arrive by train, and the capital city of Berlin will be prepared, as a huge new train station is expected to be in full operation by then. During the month-long tournament it is expected to handle one quarter of a million passengers per day. Ingulf Leuschel (IN-gulf LOY-shull) is in charge of the timetables and infrastructure.

"We will start with a completely new schedule all over Germany, and especially during the World Cup we will have additional trains, sometimes which run these days normally with one unit, they will run with two units coupled together."

The station will accommodate international, national and local trains, and subways. A huge office complex will also part of the station, as well as an underground motorway, and it will look like this for its expected full inauguration in late May.

For those traveling by car or bus, special signage will be installed on the motorways near the stadiums. World Cup traffic manager Josef Simons (YO-zeff ZEE-muns) told VOA once there, spectators will follow simple color codes to find their seating section.

"All the stadiums are divided in four zones with different colors and each spectator has a mark on his ticket. And we want to install a traffic guide system that makes use of these different colors."

In Frankfurt, work continues outside another football stadium to be used for the World Cup. At the same time, aspiring future stars play on an adjoining field. Within walking distance is the office of the German organizing committee. Vice President Wolfgang Niersbach (VULF-gahng NEERS-bahk) spends many of his days making and answering calls, and working - as he told VOA - on thousands of details.

We are quite satisfied. The key message is without any doubt that the stadiums, the 12 stadiums, will be ready in time. But between the actual season of our Bundesliga, the German Bundesliga, and the opening of the World Cup, we still have a lot to do in each stadium, especially we will change the pitch (the grass field). Our policy, our goal, is to offer the world 12 brand new pitches, and we will do it.

Now, football fans anxiously await Friday's draw to see who their favorite teams will be playing when the World Cup kicks off next June. (signed)