Organisers face World Cup security dilemma
Japanese and South Korean organisers are facing a security headache over likely delays caused by body-searching fans entering World Cup stadia this summer.
Both co-hosts tightened their security arrangements in response to the September 11 attacks on the U.S., but their decision to conduct airport-style checks at stadium entrances has already led to complaints from fans. The Cup kicks off on May 31.
Thousands of disgruntled fans missed the start of Japan's friendly with Ukraine in Osaka last month after waiting in line to be frisked, a problem that was compounded by poorly indicated directions inside Nagai Stadium.
Japanese organisers (JAWOC) said they are investigating ways to avoid a repeat scenario this summer but advised fans to come "three hours before kick-off" at all World Cup venues to be safe.
"Rather than the checks, it was that fans were unsure of which route to take to their seats. That's a problem specific to Nagai Stadium, not all the venues," JAWOC press relations manager Hisao Shuto told Reuters on Wednesday.
Nagai Stadium will host the Group F match between England and Nigeria on June 12 as well as the Group H fixture between co-hosts Japan and Tunisia two days later.
"The gates will open three hours prior to kick-off. There will be pre-game events and the opportunity to buy merchandise but the decision was taken to help prevent delays too," said Shuto.
At previous World Cups fans could not get into the stadium until two and a half hours before kick-off.
Officials in Osaka admitted that maps and signs at Nagai Stadium were "insufficient" and promised to make them more visible in time for the World Cup.
Japan face Costa Rica at International Stadium Yokohama, venue for the World Cup final, on April 17 when security arrangements will be scrutinised again.
JAWOC general secretary Masahiko Endo has acknowledged that organisers need to strike the right balance between providing safe World Cup venues and a stress-free environment for fans.
"In order to ensure the smooth running of the World Cup, we need to make sure that delays caused by checks at the gates are kept to a minimum," he told reporters on Tuesday.
But with X-ray machines and metal detectors in use at World Cup stadia in both Japan and South Korea, the patience of visiting fans is likely to be stretched to the limit.