The names of the mascots for the 2002 FIFA World Cup were announced in Japan and Korea on April 26, 2001, which marked exactly 400 days before the start of the soccer tournament on May 31, 2002. The names were chosen through a vote by soccer fans in Japan, Korea, and other nations all over the world. Nearly one million people participated in the vote. The three mascots, symbolizing energy particles in the atmosphere, were named as Ato, the team coach wearing yellow, Nik, a player wearing a blue uniform, and Kaz, a player in a purple uniform.
The naming ceremony was held at an official shop selling World Cup merchandise in Tokyo. The three mascots attended the ceremony.
The World Cup is scheduled to be held in 2002 and will be jointly hosted by Japan and Korea. The soccer teams that survive fierce regional qualifying rounds will compete for the title of world champion in the two-stage tournament. First, the thirty-two teams will be split into eight groups--four teams in each group--for the preliminary round. After competing in this round robin, the top two teams from each group will advance to the knockout stage, which will begin on June 15, 2002. The two teams that survive the knockout rounds will meet in the championship game, scheduled to be held on June 30, 2002.
Among the stadiums that will host World Cup matches, repair work on the Ibaraki Prefectural Kashima Soccer Stadium was completed on April 17, when the final test was conducted on 338 lighting installations. New stadiums were constructed in Miyagi, Niigata, Shizuoka and Oita Prefectures and the city of Sapporo, in Hokkaido, and others are scheduled to be completed in Saitama Prefecture in July and Kobe in October.
Twenty-one cities, towns, villages, and private organizations in Shizuoka Prefecture joined together to build a new multi-purpose stadium called Shizuoka Stadium ECOPA with a capacity of about 46,113 permanent and 5,236 movable seats in Fukuroi in order to host the World Cup and welcome visitors from all over the world. It is also hoped that building the stadium will help to revitalize Shizuoka Prefecture. "Eco" derives from the "echo" of the cheering crowd and "ecology," and the word "pa" comes from "pal" and "park."
A J-League professional soccer match was held at Shizuoka Stadium ECOPA on May 12 to mark the opening of the stadium. A crowd of more than 50,000 enthusiastically rooted for their favorite teams, just as if they were watching a World Cup game.
Construction of ten stadiums is also under way in South Korea, including in the capital, Seoul. The opening game of the World Cup will be held in Seoul on May 31, 2002, marking the start of the preliminary round. The first game in Japan will start at 3:30 pm on June 1 at the stadium in Niigata Prefecture, followed by a game in Sapporo at 8:30 pm.
Postage stamps featuring the 2002 FIFA World Cup will be sold at post offices in Japan between May 31 and June 28, 2001. The money raised will be used for preparations and management of the World Cup games. The price of each stamp will be 90 yen (75 U.S. cents at 120 yen to the dollar), of which 10 yen is a donation to World Cup organizing funds. The stamps will carry pictures of the 2002 World Cup mascots.
Photos: (top) Ato, Nik, and Kaz with the 2002 World Cup
logo (© 1999 FIFA TM); (above) The Shizuoka Stadium ECOPA stadium
in Shizuoka Prefecture. (Shizuoka Prefecture)