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World Sport

Fireworks for new Wembley Arch


LONDON, England -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair, England football captain David Beckham and England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson helped London celebrate the "topping out" of the new Wembley stadium in a glittering ceremony.

Blair and Beckham jointly triggered a firework display which lit up the 133-meter high Wembley Arch lifted into place earlier in the summer.

Eriksson told the UK's Press Association that he believes the new Wembley will be "the most beautiful and best stadium in the world" and admitted he longs to coach an England soccer match at the illustrious ground.

He said: "I hope we can play a game here before we go to the World Cup in Germany, which would be very nice, and I hope I am still in the job so I can sit on the bench at least once at Wembley."

The Prime Minister said he hoped the new stadium would buoy Britain's bid to host the 2012 Olympics.

He said: "This is the best that there can be, we've done it, here in Britain, we've made the best, and we can be hugely proud of what we have achieved."

Topping out ceremonies are generally celebrated halfway through the building process, marking the placement of the final structural steel or concrete beam.

The 757-million-pound ($1.36 billion) project is set to be completed in time for the 2006 FA Cup final.

The 1,750-tonne arch, which can be seen from all over London, stands more than four times as high as the former twin towers at the stadium and took six weeks to lift into place.

Officials say the new Wembley Stadium will welcome roughly 1,500,000 football and rugby fans each year and it will also have important roles as the country's leading venue for music concerts.

They say it will allow the UK to bid for the greatest events in world sport -- from the World Athletics Championship and the Olympic Games to the soccer World Cup.

Athletics will be hosted on a specially built platform round the stadium.

The last soccer game played at the old Wembley stadium, built in 1923, was England's World Cup qualifier against Germany in October 2000.


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