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Football fans dazzled by new arena

The Allianz Arena, glowing red for Bayern Munich ...



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MUNICH, Germany (CNN) -- Brazil may have won this week's Confederations Cup final, but the tournament has been an architectural triumph for hosts Germany.

With less than 12 months to go until the next World Cup, the event was Germany's first chance to show off the stadia and venues that will star alongside the world's best players next year.

None shone brighter -- literally -- than Munich's brand new Allianz Arena which will host the opening match of next year's tournament on June 9, 2006.

The illuminated stadium is the creation of football fanatics and Pritzker Prize-winning Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron.

"We wanted to win this competition because we are huge soccer fans and because we knew that there are a few things that haven't been done, like the use of light and the use of color," Herzog told CNN.

Built to replace the aging Olympic Stadium, which hosted the 1974 World Cup final, the 66,000-capacity Arena is also the new home of the Bavarian city's two leading clubs -- Bayern Munich and 1860 Munich.

To avoid any argument over color schemes between rival fans, the stadium changes hew to match the strip of which ever team is playing at home -- red for Bayern, blue for 1860 and white for Germany.

The effect is created by light panels inside the 2,816 translucent foil cushions that cover the stadium, giving it the appearance of a flying saucer.

Supporters used to being separated from the action by a running track are also in for a treat, with front row seats offering spectators the chance to sit within touching distance of their favorite players.

The rest are stacked tightly in three tiers, ensuring a clear view from anywhere inside the arena.

"Inside is very classical, almost like the Colosseum," Herzog told CNN. "It's very tight -- people are really embracing the game as if it's a Shakespearian theatre. Outside the light makes it a visible object from far away."

Although the light and effects are part of the drama of the stadium, Herzog insists the architecture doesn't distract from the action on the pitch.

The interior of the stadium has been kept intentionally plain and colorless, so that it only comes to life with the presence of a crowd.

"It's people only that you see, there's very little architecture that you see inside," said Herzog. "The seats are arranged in such a way that once the stadium is crowded the people are making the architecture.

"The people surround the pitch, under the sky or under the floodlights and that it's it. It's really like an instrument of perception. You cannot only design a building to make it beautiful. It has to really work well with the huge crowd that is using it."

A beautiful new arena for the beautiful game, the stadium has already won the approval of those who watch their football there, with Bayern president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge describing it as "the coolest stadium in the world."

It's an opinion that is echoed by Bayern Munich legend Franz Beckenbauer -- the man who lifted the World Cup for the hosts the last time the tournament was staged in Germany.

"I've seen pretty much every stadium in the world, but I've never seen anything as good as this," said Beckenbauer.

"We can all be very proud. It's a quantum leap forward. We're playing in a true football stadium at last."

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