Brisbane turns Japanese
An extraordinary 5,000 Japanese supporters will fly into Brisbane from their country on Wednesday to watch their Olympic team take on Brazil in group D of the Olympic Games football tournament.
The Japanese Football Association bought 5,000 tickets several months ago for the fans and reserved a further nine corporate suites. A total of 161 buses will ferry the fans from Brisbane's airport to the Gabba, where Japan need just a draw to ensure a quarterfinal qualifying spot at the expense of the much-vaunted Brazilians. Thousands more seats have been sold to Japanese tour operators and another record breaking crowd is expected for the Brisbane Cricket Ground.
Many of the Japanese fans will stay in Australia and proceed onto Sydney to watch other Olympic events but at least one jumbo jet is headed directly back, just three hours after the game ends. The flying time from Tokyo's Narita airport to Brisbane is around nine hours.
Officials from the Sydney Olympic Games Organising Committee (SOCOG) estimate an injection of several million dollars into the Queensland economy in a 24 hour period from the Japanese soccer fans. Event director Alan Vessey said the game would be a massive fillip for the state economy and form a substantial portion of the A$200-million-plus of football related revenue.
A record crowd of 36 326 watched Sunday's thriller between Brazil and South Africa, setting a new record for the venue since its redevelopment in 1993. Officials expect to break that record again on Wednesday as Japan await a potentially historic day for their football.
Philippe Troussier's team have won 19 successive matches, including the first two at Sydney Olympics football tournament. Brazil must win against Japan to keep alive their hopes of a first-ever gold.