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04.06.2015

14:17 Uhr

Champions League

Berlin Welcomes Messi and Co.

VonJohn Blau

Thousands of soccer fans will descend on Germany's capital this weekend to watch the UEFA Champions League final. The city hopes to show them a good time – and rake in millions of euros from the star-studded sports event.

Lionel Messi plays soccer in a league of his own.  dpa

Der Star-Spieler

Lionel Messi plays soccer in a league of his own. 

Berlin likes to throw big, splashy parties, even if the cash-strapped city can’t always afford them.

Saturday's final of the Champions League, Europe's premier soccer competition, will see the continent's top-two clubs, FC Barcelona and Juventus Turin, battle for glory in the historic Olympic Stadium. It could prove to be one of Berlin's more lucrative fetes.

More than 380 million people in nearly 200 countries will be glued to the tube on Saturday, according to UEFA. No sporting event in the world, not even the Super Bowl in the United States, attracts more eyeballs.

The city of Berlin expects to pay about €5.6 million, or $6.3 million, to host the event. But local hotels, restaurants, catering firms and other businesses could rake in more than €50 million. Munich pulled in €52 million from hosting the Champions League final in 2012.

“The economic benefits should not be underestimated in any way,” Frank Henkel, Berlin’s sports director, said in an interview with the German sports news agency, Sportsinformationsdienst.

Just on food, drink and souvenirs, fans attending regular games of the Bundesliga, Germany's top soccer league, spend on average €40 per day in Berlin. They spend as much as €100 for the DFB Pokal, the German Cup final, which is held annually in Berlin, according to a report commissioned by Mr. Henkel and the Berlin Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The Champions League final promises not only money but also prestige, not unlike the U.S. All-Star Game in baseball or other American sports. It explains why Europe’s big cities compete hand and fist every year to host it.

It took Berlin 13 years to win the 2015 bid, having lost to rival Munich, among others, in previous attempts.

All 70,500 tickets to the game were snatched up long ago, with some of them being resold on websites for more than €2,000.

Over 50,000 Barcelona and Juventus fans alone are expected in Berlin. As many as 25,000 of them will fly to the city.

Schönefeld Airport reckons with 370 additional take-offs and landings from Thursday to Sunday – so many, in fact, that it has obtained special permission for night landings. Eighty flights will take off on Sunday night alone.

Many of the Spanish and Italian fans are coming without tickets (each club is allotted 17,500) just to be near the action. They’ll join thousands of other soccer fans from Germany and elsewhere to attend various outdoor events, including live music performances and soccer clinics, around the Brandenburg Gate.

The stretch of road between the historic gate and the Berlin Victory Column – officially the 7th of June Street but better known as the “fan mile” – is closed to traffic for the four-day entertainment event, which kicks off with the Champions League Film Night on Thursday.

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