Posted August 14, 1999

TOKYO (AP) -- The 2002 World Cup is coming to 20 stadiums in South Korea and Japan, as initially planned, officials from soccer's world governing body FIFA said Sunday.

Both South Korea and Japan, co-hosts for the next World Cup, are in the middle of serious economic slowdowns, leading to some speculation that the number of stadiums might be reduced to save money.

But FIFA delegates, who visited facilities and heard progress reports from the two organizing committees, played down such worries and said they were satisfied with the preparations.

Alan Rothenberg, former president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, said South Korea handed FIFA a plan to build 10 stadiums. The financing problems are greater in Korea, where building has begun in only five cities. Japan also plans to use 10 stadiums.

"They have assured us the stadiums will all be built, and therefore we will continue with 10 venues in both Japan and Korea," Rothenberg told reporters in Tokyo.

"They are trying to balance their operational and financial burdens against the idea that they want to take the World Cup to as many parts of their respective countries as they can."

FIFA officials also played down fears about coordinating such a big tournament in two nations.

Rothenberg, who headed the organizing committee for the 1994 World Cup in the United States, noted the distance between American venues was greater than that between Seoul and Tokyo.

"If, as we all expect, both Korea and Japan fulfill their promises, we will have a historic World Cup -- the first in Asia, the first in the new millennium, the first co-hosted," he said.

The officials were confident Japanese and Korean organizers would deal adequately with the two major problems at this year's World Cup in France -- ticket swindles and hooliganism.

Thousands of soccer fans, including many Japanese, were left without the tickets they had paid for.

"The mismanagement of the ticket sales and distribution in France is an excellent lesson for FIFA in order that it is not repeated again," said Peter Velappan, FIFA coordinator for the 2002 World Cup organizing committee.

He foresaw no problems with security either. Asia has a good reputation for disciplined security and other international events, such as the Olympics, have been held successfull in both Korea and Japan, Velappan said.

FIFA Vice President Antonio Matarrese said he was impressed with Yokohama Stadium, which he visited earlier in the day. He called it "one of the best stadiums I have ever seen."

Matarrese said no decision had been made yet on which stadium will be chosen for the champonship game in Japan.  

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