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World Cup Buildup Has Already Begun

March 9, 2000

The draw for regional qualifying tournaments for the 2002 soccer World Cup finals, which will be hosted jointly by Japan and South Korea, took place amid a dazzling show in Tokyo on December 7, 1999. One week before, FIFA (the International Federation of Football Associations) had unveiled the mascots for the 2002 event. Already excitement is mounting for the first-ever World Cup to be hosted by more than one country.

Stars Attend Qualifying Draw
A total of 195 countries and regions--more than the number of member countries of the United Nations--will take part in World Cup qualifying, which begins in spring 2000. Of those teams, 29 will win places in the final tournament, joining Japan and South Korea, who qualify automatically as hosts, and France, who qualify as reigning champions, to make a total of 32 teams.

At the draw ceremony, which was broadcast live to 60 countries worldwide, kabuki (traditional Japanese theater) actor Hashinosuke Nakamura and former tennis pro Kimiko Date were among the celebrities who drew the team names. Among those watching the draw were soccer legends, such as Pelé, Brazil's soccer king, and former German captain Franz Beckenbauer, whose onfield nickname was the "Kaiser." As the regional draws were conducted, representatives of each country reacted variously with satisfaction and disappointment. The biggest stir of the night was caused by the draw for Group Nine of the European regional qualifying tournament. Three-time world champions Germany were drawn with archrivals England, the country where soccer was invented, ensuring that this World Cup will be fought passionately right from the start of qualification. German coach Erich Ribbeck predicted, "The matches against England will be something of a classic," while England coach Kevin Keegan commented that games against Germany are "always special."

Atmosphere Building
The mascots chosen to promote the tournament are three imaginary creatures called "Atmos." They live high in the Earth's atmosphere, and their story will be developed further as the event approaches. One of the two younger Atmos will be named by Japan and the other by Korea.

Designs of World Cup mascots have traditionally drawn on symbols of the host country. With two countries hosting the event in 2002, however, that would have been problematic. It was therefore decided to settle for fictional creatures. The British design company that was hired to create the mascots explained, "The 2002 FIFA World Cup is a groundbreaking event. To live up to everyone's expectations, we needed a ground-breaking approach." Merchandising using the mascot figures will no doubt be a great source of income. FIFA also plans to create an Internet site for the Atmos. They were unable to register the site under the name "Atmo," though, because that domain name was already in use by a pornography site. They opted instead for "Atmozone" and "Atmoland."

Efforts to boost cooperation between and generate excitement within the host nations themselves include a friendship walk that, it is planned, will link the 20 Japanese and South Korean venues where World Cup matches will be played.

Trends in JapanEdited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.