Germany benefits from World Cup

BERLIN - Germany was the real winner of the soccer World Cup, not Italy, because the tournament gave the host country a major economic boost and revamped its image abroad, the government said on Wednesday.

BERLIN - Germany was the real winner of the soccer World Cup, not Italy, because the tournament gave the host country a major economic boost and revamped its image abroad, the government said on Wednesday.

Minister for sport Wolfgang Schaeuble said tens of thousands of jobs had been created, Germany's much-criticised services industries were booming, tourism was bolstered, tax revenues rose and infrastructure was modernised.

Germans were no longer regarded as humourless beer drinkers who ate sausages in their lederhosen trousers.

Now there was an image abroad of Germany as a modern, efficient and tolerant nation full of enthusiastic soccer fans.

"Italy might have won the World Cup from a sporting point of view but the real winners are Germany," Schaeuble told a news conference on a report covering the tournament's impact. "We've analysed the effects and found all sorts of positive results.

"The World Cup triggered all sorts of positive economic effects."

Italy won the month-long World Cup, which ended on July 9, by beating France in the final on penalties.

Germany's gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to grow in 2006 by about 2,5 percent, almost three times the rate in 2005 and the strongest in six years. That is also a far stronger growth rate than forecast for 2006 a year ago.

Researchers at Bonn University have calculated the World Cup atmosphere in Germany, where hundreds of thousands celebrated their team's unexpected run to the semifinals, had sparked a strong increase in consumer spending.

Schaeuble said retailers estimated the additional revenue totalled some two billion euros (about R18 billion).

The World Cup led to an extra 300 million euros (R2,7 million) being spent on tourism in 2006 and there had been nearly two million additional tourists in Germany.

Hotels reported a 31 percent jump in business this year.

Fifty thousand additional jobs were created by the tournament.- Reuters

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