Germany eyes cup of plenty

GERMANS are looking to the World Cup to boost the economy and help shake off the country’s international reputation as an economy mired in high labour costs and slow growth.

Retailers, restaurants and hotels are among expected winners, as a million people stream in for the tournament, which opens today with the host’s match against Costa Rica.

In addition, the government is using worldwide attention to conduct a marketing campaign, titled Germany — Land of Ideas, with exhibits and events highlighting its tradition of science and innovation, in the hope of attracting investors.

With kick-off approaching, the sprawling government complex on the Spree River in central Berlin has been transformed into a large World Cup marketing camp. A large sculpture of an aspirin tablet stands near the Reichstag building, home to the parliament, as a tribute to Germany’s pharmaceutical industry. Across the lawn is a soccer shoe – a nod to the Dassler family, who founded shoemakers Adidas and Puma.

Adidas also built a replica of the Berlin Olympic Stadium, a third of its size, that can seat 8,600 people right next to the Reichstag.

People are paying to watch games live on a big screen.

“On the one hand, the World Cup will definitely have an influence on perceptions of Germany,” said Stefan Chatrath, a sports marketing expert at Free University of Berlin’s School of Business and Economics.

“The question is, of course how far an image campaign will influence decisions on where to locate business,” Dr Chatrath said.

He said that other factors — taxation, infrastructure and worker qualifications — had to back up the image. “The other parts have to be right,” he said. “Image alone isn’t enough.”

Germany is working against its reputation as a high-cost location with lots of regulations and worker protections that have driven jobs and invesment to lower -wage countries in Eastern Europe and Asia.

While the German growth rate in 2006 is predicted at 1.8%, up on last year’s 0.9%, it is still sluggish by international standards. Unemployment ran at 10.8% in May, with 4.5 million people out of work.

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