New World Cup stadiums in doubt

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The Independent Online
PLANS to build new stadiums in South Korea for the 2002 World Cup finals may be shelved because of the country's financial crisis.

A source close to the president said yesterday that the prime minister was expected to recommend to President Kim Dae-jung during a cabinet meeting this week that plans for new stadiums be scrapped. "The recommendation would be that we make do with what we have," the source said.

The government of South Korea, which is co-hosting the 2002 finals with Japan, have been forced to slash expenditure in all areas to keep the country afloat after an economic crisis forced the government to accept a pounds 35.35bn rescue package from the International Monetary Fund in December.

President Kim has continually raised questions on the construction of 10 new stadiums for the World Cup, but his administration has met resistance from both World Cup organisers and football fans.

Fifa, the sport's world governing body, said yesterday it would confront the issue at the next planning meeting.

"As we don't know anything about this officially it is hard to react," Keith Cooper, Fifa's spokesman, said in Zurich. "Right now it's speculation but we have a planning group meeting before France '98 and we'll find out the true story then."

A decision not to construct promised stadiums, which were an integral part of the South Korean bid, would be a blow to Fifa after it made the unprecedented decision to let South Korean and Japan share the event.

The World Cup organising committee seemed to be caught off guard by the reports and were ready to defend the original project. They say the expense of building a new stadium in Seoul makes sense when considering costs for renovating an Olympic stadium which does not meet Fifa standards.

Choi Chang-shin, the general-secretary of the organising committee, said the 1988 Olympic stadium would require modifications costing more than 900bn won (pounds 375m). He said about 2 trillion won would be needed to build the 10 new stadiums. He said actual investment for the World Cup would be around 800bn won, as some of the stadiums under construction will be used to stage other sports events including the 2002 Asian Games.

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