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Argh just remembered… in case you couldn’t be bothered registering, here is the article text (i cut some of the end stuff as the post was way too long):

World Cup stadiums turn to empty white elephants

A MONTH ago, Japan’s shimmering World Cup stadiums were packed with ecstatic fans. Today, the nation’s 10 new sporting venues stand mostly empty, occasionally hosting sparsely attended games between Japanese football teams.

The Nagai Stadium in Osaka filled with up to 45,000 fans for World Cup games in June. Locals begged for tickets to watch England play Nigeria and two days later, the whole country’s eyes turned to it as Japan beat Tunisia.

This month, the ground returned to its regular role as home to Cerezo Osaka, a team in the second flight of Japan’s J-League, and the 6,500 who attended the match against Mito Hollyoak looked lost amid the empty spaces in the stands.

But Nagai is a stadium that at least has a clear role beyond the World Cup. Japan spent €4.5bn on facilities for the event and now faces the question of how to justify its futuristic stadiums.

The cost was three times what the French spent in 1998, even though Japan was hosting only half the tournament. The South Koreans spent about €1.5bn on stadiums that will also have limited use.

Civic pride clearly played a major role in the construction of several venues, including the 60,000-capacity Saitama Arena in an area usually dismissed as a dormitory suburb of Tokyo.

Four existing football grounds with capacities of 50,000 or more, including the National Stadium in Tokyo, were not used for the tournament, and little serious thought was given to the role of the new stadiums after the World Cup.

A 1996 artist’s impression of the Saitama Arena showed a capacity crowd cheering a game of American football a game less popular in Japan than in England. This month there was delight when the ground recorded a crowd of 58,000 for a soccer game featuring the popular Urawa Reds, a local side.

Yet the stadium will only serve as an occasional venue for the team. Fans prefer the club’s original ground, within walking distance of Saitama town centre.


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