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Britain gear up for the big power play

*Britain's electricity network operator National Grid is surveying soccer fans and analysing data to make sure it can respond to an expected surge in demand when UK viewers of the World Cup brew their traditional cup of half-time tea.

Electricity demand typically rises sharply after major events or following the climax of a popular TV programme when a large number of viewers collectively return to everyday business, including power-consuming habits such as switching on lights, computers - or the kettle.

The grid operator needs to forecast demand and supply as precisely as it can to prevent blackouts, which can result from sudden surges placing a big strain on the electricity network.

Britain has seen huge jumps in electricity consumption during past football games, with highest ever spike of 2,800 megawatts - equivalent to 1.1 million kettles - recorded after England lost the 1990 World Cup semi-final penalty shootout against West Germany.

Ninja knowledge guiding the Brazuca flight

*Knowledge from the ninja, Japan's secretive feudal spies and assassins, is the secret behind the new official ball for the upcoming World Cup, one Japanese researcher has said.

Players during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa complained the 'Jabulani' tournament ball had the tendency to behave in a bizarre fashion and "knuckle" like a beach ball through the air, prompting German firm Adidas to come up with a more reliable ball for this year's tournament.

The result, known as the 'Brazuca' after a slang word for native Brazilians, should fly with greater stability, said Takeshi Asai, a professor of sports science and head of the Institute of Health and Sports Science at the University of Tsukuba just outside Tokyo.

The new ball has just six panels, down from eight of the Jabulani, and are designed in the shape of a shuriken - the throwing star used by the ninja - while the seams that held them together were the secret to its greater stability, he added.

"Despite the reduced number of panels, the total length of the seams to put them together became longer, which makes the range of the ball speed that creates low air-resistance become wider," said Asai.

Germany’s guiding force loses his licence

*Germany coach Joachim Loew will have to go six months without driving after he had his licence suspended following a string of violations.

The 54-year-old, who racked up 18 points on the violation system that results in a suspended licence for driving too fast and using the phone, accepted the suspension.

"Of course, I admit that I sometimes did drive too fast," he said in a German Football Federation (DFB) statement. "I know I need to restrain myself. I have learned my lesson and will change my driving behaviour. "I have to live with the consequences and now I am using the train more often," said the coach.

Loew would not have had to drive much himself anyway in the coming weeks with his team preparing for next month's World Cup in Brazil.  

Olympic stadium plan a sin, says Jap architect

*A revised plan for Japan's new stadium for the 2020 Olympics is still so wasteful and large for the site that it is a "sin" - one that also destroys the power of the original design, said a Tokyo architect running a petition drive against the structure.

The spaceship-like stadium was designed by Zaha Hadid, who also designed the aquatics centre for the 2012 London Olympics, but the plans came under fire soon after Tokyo won the Games last year for ballooning cost estimates and a lack of harmony with the surrounding cityscape.

This week, the Japan Sports Council released a new design proposal reducing the size of the stadium by more than 20 percent and cutting costs from some 300 billion yen ($2.95 billion), more than twice the original bid estimate, to roughly 162 billion yen. But Edward Suzuki, a Tokyo-based architect, says the new proposal is still flawed, especially given the number of trees that will have to be cut in one of the city's rare green areas.

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