Germany will stage the World Cup's first opening gala next year, but organizers yesterday (Nov. 30) promised it will be nothing like the extravaganzas seen at the Olympics and the Super Bowl.

Germany will stage the World Cup's first opening gala next year, but organizers yesterday (Nov. 30) promised it will be nothing like the extravaganzas seen at the Olympics and the Super Bowl.

Artistic director Andre Heller, who unveiled a creative team that includes Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel, aims to keep the June 7 spectacle a surprise but he promised the gala will have no parade of superstars and will not echo the local themes used at other major sporting events.

"We have an enormous space to fill but we won't do it with banal figures," he said. Performers will include American soprano Jessye Norman, the Black Eyed Peas, Algerian singer Cheb Khaled and around 5,000 volunteers.

Previous World Cups have held opening ceremonies that typically lasted about an hour immediately before the first match. World Cup 2006 will start what world governing body FIFA hopes will be a new tradition -- a separate festivity to mark the start of the tournament, in this case two days before the first ball is kicked.

Eno is composing a 2006 World Cup anthem using instruments from across the world to form a very different orchestra. Music director Gabriel promised to "make some noise." Asked why he had signed up, he joked, "It's the same attraction for a musician as for a footballer -- money, sex and drugs."

Heller is relying on inspiration from avant-garde choreographer Philippe Decoufle. The Frenchman shot to fame after he directed the surreal Cirque du Soleil-style opening and closing ceremonies at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville.

Decoufle's shows featured a polka with braying donkey sounds mixed with fiddles and figures emerging from the sky, including suspended ski jumpers and an angel to put out the flame. "I saw ceremonies for 30 years. One was different -- Albertville '92. It was a shock that an artist and not a Disney type was putting on the show," Heller said.


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