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Germany prepared for World Cup

BERLIN — The World Cup — which kicked off June 9 as Costa Rica took on host Germany — offers the Teutonic nation a unique opportunity to present itself globally while soccer fever grips the country and the airwaves.

Pubcasters ARD and ZDF are sharing free TV rights to 48 of the 64 soccer games including all German ones while paybox Premiere will air the entire World Cup championship — the largest international event ever to take place in the country, even including past Olympics.

For the first time both free and pay TV offerings will be in high definition.

Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile also is breaking ground, offering 20 live games plus regular summaries and game wraps in cooperation with Premiere for 3G mobile phone subscribers.

Those subscribers can get the mobile TV service for $2.55 a day, $9.60 a month or even free, depending on their pricing plan. T-Mobile has 30 million customers in Germany, but the total number of 3G devices in use from all carriers is estimated at only 2.5 million.

Demand for mobile TV is not high among Germans, who prefer watching the games on TV. Indeed, there were no buyers here for Internet rights.

Locals, meanwhile, are hoping for a fourth world title after Germany’s last World Cup win in 1990 in Italy.

Director Soenke Wortmann, who captured Germany’s first World Cup victory in 1954 in his 2003 hit “The Miracle of Bern,” has been granted unprecedented access to the matches for a documentary he’s shooting about the German national team.

For Wortmann, a one-time minor-league player with Westfalia Herne, it’s a chance of a lifetime and his third soccer project in what has become a trilogy that began with “The Miracle of Bern” and continued with the recently launched Sat 1 series “Freunde fuer immer — Das Leben ist rund” (Friends for Ever — Life Is Round), about childhood friends who have played in a local club for 20 years.

Broadcasters with no World Cup coverage have given up on staple demos and are going straight for femmes.

Haim Saban’s ProSieben web, normally a platform for male-skewed Hollywood blockbusters, will counterprogram with “Chicago,” “The Hours,” “City of Angels” and “While You Were Sleeping” as well as episodes of “Sex and the City” selected by viewers.

For soccer fans, the games are best seen with a crowd. Across the country, throngs are gathering to watch televised games in movie theaters, outdoor venues, parks, bars and even in churches. In Cologne, a giant screen has been set up next to the city’s 1,000-year-old cathedral.

In front of Berlin’s Reichstag parliament building, Adidas has erected a mini-World Cup stadium, where up to 10,000 spectators can watch their national teams on giant-sized video screens.

At the nearby Brandenburg Gate, the World Cup has been transformed into a beer-and-sausage carnival extravaganza, where musical acts Simple Minds and Ronan Keating took to the stage at the June 7 kickoff party.

The $900 million sponsorship and advertising blitz accompanying the World Cup includes 15 main sponsors, ranging from Gillette, Toshiba and Philips to Yahoo!, McDonald’s and even Budweiser (which has beer-loving Teutons peeved at having to settle for American product in the stadiums, where beloved local brew is strictly verboten.)

The event presents one of the biggest security challenges the country has faced in 50 years.

The threat of terrorism tops the security agenda while neo-Nazis demonstrations, racial attacks and soccer hooliganism also remain grave concerns.

The presence of Iran, skedded to face Mexico in Nuremberg on June 11, has increased worries of a public show of support by neo-Nazis for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s anti-Israeli posturing and his controversial comments about the Holocaust.

And in Cologne, a brothel advertising its services with a World Cup-themed banner — adorned with international colors and a semi-naked woman — blacked out the flags of Iran and Saudi Arabia after threats from alleged Muslims.

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