The giant red phallus billowing from the roof is a bit of a giveaway. Just next to a busy main road and tucked incongruously behind a tire repair workshop is Artemis, Berlin's newest, most luxurious brothel. There is, as such, nothing remarkable about the vast four-story bordello that opened its doors two months ago in an anonymous industrial estate in Berlin. Except, perhaps, for its location. The sex facility is a short drive from Berlin's Olympiastadion, the famous stadium used by the Nazis to host the 1936 Olympics and -- more important -- the venue for next year's World Cup.
Some six games, including the final, will be played at the stadium. More than 100,000 England fans are expected for the tournament -- which will be played at 12 city venues around the country next summer -- together with thousands of other supporters from all over the world.
As well as fans, German authorities are expecting a different kind of influx -- at least 40,000 prostitutes. Previous global sporting events have attracted large numbers of sex workers; indeed, at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, authorities tried to banish prostitutes from the city center. And though the figures are necessarily hazy, officials believe that around 10,000 sex workers plied their trade during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, many of them imported from abroad.
This time, World Cup organizers are expecting an even bigger invasion, not least because prostitution is legal in Germany. Asked how many women might turn up, Romy, the manager of Artemis, says: "You can hang another zero onto the 40,000 figure.
"A lot of girls arrive here during trade fairs when the city is full," she adds. "Next summer will be bigger. It's going to be an invasion."
Inside Artemis, meanwhile, a handful of early-evening male customers stroll around in fluffy peach bathrobes; the women, naked apart from a micro-beach towel, chat and joke.
The new 5 million-euro, 40-room facility is the brain wave of a German-Turkish businessman; unlike in most brothels, the women are free to negotiate their own rates and don't have to pay a pimp, he says. The entrance fee is seven euros (about $8.25). The sex costs extra. Artemis, named after the virgin goddess of hunting, has an entrance for disabled people. The Olympic stadium, with its creepy, Nazi-era atmosphere, is just three S-Bahn stops away. "We are normally open from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., but during the World Cup we are considering staying open 24 hours," says Romy.
With slightly more than seven months to go until the opening ceremony on June 9, German officials have come up with proposals for bringing prostitutes and World Cup fans together, among them "sex garages." Dortmund, one of Germany's bigger World Cup venues, came up with the plan to erect Verrichtungshäuser -- a strange phrase, best translated as "performance houses." These temporary shacks were to have been set up next to Dortmund's football stadium. Last week, though, city officials confirmed that the plan had been shelved after they were unable to find a sex-hut sponsor.
The prospect of an influx of prostitutes from across Europe arriving for the 2006 World Cup has provoked concern among women's groups, church leaders and trade unionists. They fear that many of the women who will work during the tournament will have been forced into prostitution or duped by criminal gangs. The National Council of German Women's Organizations plans to set up stalls around the stadiums urging fans to think twice before having sex with prostitutes who may have been coerced. "We have nothing against prostitutes or prostitution," said Henny Engels, its executive director, last week. "But we are against people trafficking and forced prostitution. It's already a big problem in Germany. We want to use the World Cup to make our point."
The organization has written to the German national team, its coach Jürgen Klinsmann, and Franz Beckenbauer, the head of Germany's 2006 World Cup organizing committee, urging them to support the campaign. So far the response has not been impressive. Only Jens Lehmann, Arsenal's reserve goalkeeper, has written back, giving his support, and promising to raise the issue with his British clubmates.
In a condescending letter to Germany's minister for women, Renate Schmidt, meanwhile, Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder, president of the German FA, said he would not be dealing with what he called "this tiresome issue."
Others, though, take a more laidback view of the prostitute phenomenon. "Berlin is a very world-open city. It's always been like that. There have been prostitutes working here for hundreds of years," says Martina Schmidhofer, a Green Party councilor responsible for sexual health issues, and for the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf district of West Berlin, which includes the Olympic stadium. "Our main concern is that the prostitutes have good working conditions. My message to England fans would be: 'Behave sensibly, don't drink too much, use a condom. And don't expect a love relationship.'"
This article has been provided by the Guardian through a special arrangement with Salon. ) Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005. Visit the Guardian's Web site at http://www.guardian.co.uk.