Mega-brothel for soccer world cup

By Tony Paterson

BERLIN - It is only a short bus ride away from Germany's main World Cup soccer stadium and it boasts a Turkish bath, two saunas, two cinemas and up to 100 prostitutes offering round the clock sex to as many as 650 male clients who can be entertained on the premises at one time.

Europe's biggest brothel, which opened in Berlin only two months ago, is Germany's latest answer to the massive invasion of so-called "sex-workers" who are expected to flood the country next year to cater for male soccer fans attending the World Cup event.

Early predictions suggest that up to 3 million fans will visit a prostitute at least once during the World Cup.

The event's organisers are expecting at least 40,000 prostitutes to descend on Germany from throughout Europe to meet the demand.

Artemis, the vast four-storey brothel located a mile and a half away from Berlin's revamped Nazi-era Olympic stadium - one of the principal World Cup venues - has been set up in an attempt bring the expected sex trade explosion under control in a country where prostitution is both legal and widespread.

From the outside, the huge €5 million (NZ$8.4m) concrete and glass establishment resembles a luxury hotel, albeit strangely tucked away on an industrial estate next to a busy four-lane ring road.

Yet, close up, the decorative elongated balloon flying from the building's roof turns out to be a giant mock-up of a phallus.

Inside a handful of middle-aged punters were last week paying euros 40 each for a locker, bathrobe and access to the brothel's multiple facilities that include bars, whirlpools, massage parlours, pornographic film cinemas and 46 special sex suites decked out with mock Zebra skin bed covers, mirrors and Bacchanalian portraits of naked women.

Yet the sex itself costs extra.

Norman Jacob, a lawyer and spokesman for Artemis, says that the brothel has adopted what he claims is a revolutionary approach which cuts out prostitutes' traditional reliance on pimps to organise their trade and virtually eliminates the chances of illegal eastern European "sex slaves" being employed on the premises.

"All the girls who work here have to provide a tax number and proof of permission to work in the EU," he said.

"At the same time they have to pay a €70 entrance fee, but they are left free to negotiate the cost of their services with each client.

This cuts out the role of pimps and allows the girls to keep all the profits," he added.

Xenia, a scantily clad blonde who was offering her services at the brothel last week, said she found the system worked in her favour.

"I used to pay between twenty and fifty per cent of my takings to my organiser. Here I can keep the lot," she said.

Mr Jacob admitted that he was looking forward to the World Cup play-offs in Berlin.

Six games are to be played in the city, including the final.

"Football and sex belong together," he said.

The new breed of mega brothels like Artemis are being encouraged by the German authorities because of their ability to impose Teutonic order on what the government fears will be an uncontrollable explosion in illicit sex during the World Cup.

The German Interior Minister has joined forces with the country's Federal Criminal Bureau in an attempt to stamp out the problem of illegal prostitutes operating in the country during the event.

Renate Schmidt, the outgoing minister for family affairs, recently wrote to the German Football Association demanding that it "rally behind police and the authorities in their efforts to combat forced prostitution and people trafficking." "The world will be watching Germany and it will judge our integrity on a daily basis," she added.

Cologne, one of the twelve German cities earmarked to host World Cup games, has followed Berlin and erected a series of policed "sex garages" on the city's fringes.

Each car-port like structure offers rudimentary facilities for prostitutes and their clients, including condom and snack-vending machines Similar plans to bring the sex trade under control are underway in Munich where police predict that the number of prostitutes operating in the city is likely to increase by 30 per cent next year.

"We don't want to destroy legitimate businesses, but we aim to root out the sex slaves who are being brought here," said Gottfried Schlicht, the Munich police spokesman.

However, German women's groups, church leaders and trade unionists remain concerned about an influx of sex slaves, despite official efforts to control the problem.

Germany's Women's Council is planning to demonstrate outside soccer stadiums to warn fans.

"We want to alert men to this problem," said a spokeswoman for the council last week.

"During the World Cup all forms of sexual exploitation must be shown the red card," she added.

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