Japan and South Korea have prepared state of the art stadia to welcome the international football gliteratti to June's World Cup. NCE looks at six of the most exciting and innovative structures built for the greatest show on earth.
England's most daunting fixture in the group stage of the World Cup will be played on 7 June against Argentina at the the state of the art Sapporo Dome in Japan's fifth largest city, in the south west of Hokkaido.
Nicknamed 'Hiroba', meaning gathering place, the 42,122 capacity stadium cost £255M and is ingeniously designed to be used for baseball as well as football.
Conversion is achieved via the world's first hovering pitch.
Firstly, the artificial baseball surface is rolled away as the stands slide back to form a 90m opening. The pitch is then 'hovered' into position and rotated through 90 0 before the stands slide back into position. This entire process takes two hours.
Completed last May, Hiroba is designed to provide an atmosphere with a sense of intimacy between players and spectators.
The dome spans 245m and is 68m high and is fully enclosed to protect against the winter snow and provide perfect playing conditions all year round for the Consadole Sapporo football team. Another unique feature of the oyster-shaped stadium is an observatory that protrudes from the top of the dome 53m above ground, providing views over Sapporo and within the dome.
Easy access is provided by the city's transportation system. The Dome is only a 10 minute walk from the nearest subway station, which is only an 11 minute ride fromdowntown Sapporo.
The Seoul World Cup Stadium
The Seoul World Cup stadium will be the venue for the opening ceremony and opening game between cup holder France and Senegal. With a seating capacity of 64,677, it is the largest socceronly stadium in Asia, covering an area of over 216,712m 2. It has six storeys above ground and one below ground and boasts two giant digital scoreboards and advanced sound and communication features.
Seen from above, the stadium is shaped like a traditional Korean kite to symbolise the hope for unification and world peace. Sited on a converted landfill site in the Sangam-dong in western Seoul, work started in October 1998 and was completed three years later, costing just over £100M. .
The stands are precast concrete, on a steel framed and concrete substructure. A steel framed truss with tensile cables supports the PTFE coated glass fibre roof.
Hosting another group game and one of the World Cup semi finals, the stadium will be illuminated every night during the competition to provide a spectacular attraction.
It is well connected by road and has parking capacity for 2,735 vehicles. It is also well served by buses and has its own subway station.
With a capacity of 63,700, the Saitama Stadium is the largest purpose-built football stadium in Japan. And it is unique in another respect; built to withstand the most severe earthquakes measured on the Japanese Seismic Intensity Scale, the stadium is equipped with storehouses containing food, blankets and other emergency supplies to be used in case of disaster.
Rainfall on the stadium roof is collected into several 3,250m 3reservoirs to be used for watering the pitch and also in the toilets. In case of disaster, the water can be purified for drinking, with the reservoir holding enough water to supply 3,000 people for a month.
However, it is beneath the 68m by 105m natural grass pitch that innovation abounds. Having no running track around the pitch, the roof hugs the field cutting out the sun. So before laying turf, contractor Kajima installed its own soil temperature control system.
Some 40km of piping circulates warm water beneath the field in winter, when temperatures are low, reversing to cold water in summer when temperatures are high. To avoid the risk of bursting, the pipes are seamless.
As turf-growing conditions vary across the pitch, with sunlight obstructed by the stadium's high roof, the field is divided into five independently controlled blocks.
Centrepiece of this year's World Cup finals will be the 73,370 capacity International Stadium in Yokohama.
Completed in 1997, the stadium is the first in Japan to have two tiers of seating, with grandstands rising 52m above pitch level.
The undulating stainless steel roof, which covers 75% of the seating, is designed to collect rainwater which is then used to irrigate the pitch. The stadium is powered by electricity from a nearby waste to energy plant.
Niigata Stadium Big Swan
The Republic of Ireland's footballers will be the first to sample the big match atmosphere of Japan's Niigata Big Swan stadium when they step on to the pitch for their first World Cup group match against Cameroon on 1 June.
The 42,279 capacity stadium was completed in March 2001 and is so called because of its translucent lightweight teflon roof which has been designed to evoke the swans on the nearby Toyano lagoons in the marshy inland area between the Shinano and the Agano rivers.
The consequent high groundwater levels in Niigata city led the designer Nikken Sekkei to opt for huge foundations. The five storey 32.5m high steel framed reinforced concrete structure was built by a contracting team including Kajima, Fukada, Shimizu, Maruun Kensetsu, Taisei, Daichi and Lotte Construction.
The PTFE coated glass fibre roof covers some 90% of the seats, supported by two pairs of arches formed from three dimensional trusses.
These 'double cross arches' are mounted on a tension ring truss frame running all round the top of the stands. These are linked to 20 perimeter arches with the four roof corrugated shell segments.
'When I visited at dusk, the empty stadium proudly showed its relaxing form as if it were constructed effortlessly, although it includes many complicated ties in and heavy loads, ' said a Japanese visitor to the site.
'I could not help thinking of a swan's legs in the water.