World Cup soccer matches will be held on the island of Kyushu in only one place, Oita Prefecture, and preparations are in full swing there.
Oita Governor Hiramatsu Morihiko says, "Our stadium for the games is nicknamed 'Big Eye.' It opened last May. Soccer teams will compete in 10 stadiums in Japan, but ours is the only domed stadium with a retractable roof. If it rains we can close the roof, which is most convenient because Japan gets plenty of rain in the early summer, when the games will be held."
Oita Prefecture was involved in the early stages of bidding to host the World Cup in Japan. The Governor says, "The 21st century will be a great one for Asia. Our prefecture was in close contact with the Republic of Korea even before we entered our bid, and when it was announced that Japan would co-host the World Cup with Korea, we were the first in Japan to hold events to celebrate. Soccer fans came here from every prefecture in Kyushu, really excited. I remember being caught up in the excitement myself!"
Five years have passed since then, and the mood in Oita Prefecture is rising to fever pitch as the World Cup approaches.
"It's an international event and we'll be welcoming people from all over the world. So it's only natural that Oita is excited. Our prefecture has a lot to offer--for example, there are fantastic hot springs in Yufuin and Beppu, and southern Oita is known for its delicious seafood. We hope many, many people will come here from abroad and experience our way of life."
World Cup Soccer is an international sporting extravaganza on a par with the Olympic Games. The eyes of the world will be on Oita when matches are held there, giving the prefecture an ideal opportunity to let the world know what it is all about. The Governor hopes that World Cup events in Oita will encourage interaction among young people who gather there from around the globe.
"Soccer is a great sport because it gives people from every continent a chance to get to know each other. After the World Cup is over, the important thing is to keep the ball rolling, to make it possible for those contacts to develop further. Our wish is that the World Cup in Oita will become a catalyst for future international communication."
Oita Prefecture Governor Hiramatsu Morihiko says, "The future belongs to Asia. One day, I'd like to be involved in a project in which the Asia Cup is co-hosted by Japan, the Republic of Korea and China."
Oita City's World Cup AC Plaza serves such purposes as introducing the history of the World Cup and providing information on soccer training camps in the prefecture.