Edmonton the host with the most for the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup
Terry Jones Edmonton Sun March 21, 2013
EDMONTON - It has been well-documented over the years how Edmonton, which kept laying golden eggs for them over and over again, had been used and abused by the Canadian Soccer Association.
Well, as of today, all is forgiven.
“This is the payoff,” said one highly placed Edmonton official who did behind-the-scenes work with FIFA and the CSA at the London Olympics and the last Worlds in Germany.
“We made out like bandits.”
While the final of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup will be held in Vancouver, Edmonton’s preference and target was the opening ceremonies and opening game of the 24-team tournament featuring Christine Sinclair and Canada’s Olympic bronze medal team.
Edmonton’s goal was to be the host with the most, to get a schedule to build a festival around from start to finish.
Mission accomplished. And then some.
The host city to the 2002 FIFA Women’s U-19 World Championship, which still holds all the records for FIFA age-specific events, will get so much more than the lid-lifter. The city has been awarded the mother lode.
In addition to the tone-setting game, which at Germany 2011 featured Canada versus Germany before 73,680 fans in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, Edmonton has been awarded so much more.
• Two Canada games in Group A play, with the third to be played in Olympic Stadium in Montreal.
• Eleven games, more than any of the five other host cities — Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and Moncton.
• Round of 16 game June 20.
• Round of 16 game on June 22.
• Quarter-final on June 27.
• Semifinal (featuring Canada if still alive) on Canada Day, July 1.
• Bronze-medal game, which of course could also feature Canada, a nation with a best-ever finish of fourth place achieved at USA 2003, losing the bronze medal game 3-2 to the U.S. in Carson, Calif.
Peter Montopoli, general secretary of the CSA, made the announcement at a news conference at city hall.
“When Peter was talking it gave me goose bumps,” said Canadian women’s national soccer coach John Herdman.
“This is starting to become real. To think of 60,000 people, all wearing red, with the opening ceremony and opening game in Edmonton inspiring our girls to be the best they can be, making them their daughters for at least those first two games … We want to win that group and Edmonton can help us reach that goal because if we win that group, we will be back.”
Herdman said he was hoping this would be the way it would work out.
“I’m supposed to be unbiased but this is where I preferred we’d come and play. There’s a history here with our girls. So many of them are familiar with the stadium. We have our best home field advantage here. The girls always tell me what it was like here in 2002 and that it was the best experience they’ve ever had in soccer.
“You guys get it in Edmonton. When the maple leaf comes out, you get it,” said the Olympic bronze medal coach.
“The opening match really sets the stage for the entire competition,” said Montopoli.
“I was getting chills down my back thinking about 60,000 people in the stadium, all wearing red and screaming for Canada,” said Mayor Stephen Mandel. “I think it’s going to be one of the most special moments our city has ever seen.”
Mandel originally voted against spending $25,000 on a bid to be part of the competition, reminding city council that when Canada held the 2007 FIFA Men’s U-20 in Canada, the Canadian Soccer Association snubbed Edmonton, selecting Toronto as the epicentre city. Edmonton drew the largest crowd of the event.
“We will deliver,” said Mandel, facing Montopoli at the press conference. “Please pass that on to FIFA. All those days will be great days. It will take over this city. It will be amazing.”
Local organizers promise a “gigantic live event, a massive festival” featuring big screens to show other games from around the country with entertainment, beer-fests, family interactive events, etc. downtown.
Richard Starke, provincial minister of tourism, parks and recreation, also said FIFA can be confident of success here.
“Edmonton has a visionary ability to host major events and this is the best stadium in the country to hold this event, bar none. Edmonton will shine very brightly. I’m confident it will. I’m looking forward to 500 million people watching these games worldwide.”
In addition to the two Canada Group A games on June 6 and June 11 will be double-header games featuring the other games in the pool. On June 16, Edmonton will have the 1 vs. 4 game from Group C and the 2 vs. 3 game from Group D. The opposite games in those pools will be played at the same time, Group C in Winnipeg and Group D in Vancouver.
While Edmonton will play host to 11 games, Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa will each have nine games and Winnipeg and Moncton 7.
The strategy was expressed back in the beginning of the bid process by Lindsay Harrison, manager of event attractions for Edmonton Economic Development.
“We’re going to be selling the idea of making Edmonton the epicentre of a World Cup Festival, like the Hot To Huddle downtown festival at the 2010 Grey Cup, and we’re going to be very strong in pointing out our past successes,” said Harrison.
Obviously it worked.
FIFA head Sepp Blatter supplied the strongest testimonial of all in an exclusive interview with your correspondent when asked about a Women’s World Cup here prior to the final in 2002.
“They will do it!” he said. “The guarantee of enthusiasm of the public is there. With what has happened here, Canada has convinced me. What they’ve realized here is extraordinary in the 27 years I’ve witnessed FIFA events. The whole event has been ballistic.”
Germany 2011 was the last of the 16-team FIFA Women’s World Cups, the event going to 24-teams beginning with Canada 2015. It was hugely successful, however, drawing 845,751, an average of 26,430 per match.
Montopoli has set a target to draw a record 1.5 million over the 52 matches of Canada 2015.
Canada will also play host to the FIFA 2014 Women’s U-20 World Cup but it has not been determined if Edmonton and Vancouver, clearly the two epicentres of the big event, will be included.
Why such an emphasis on Edmonton and Vancouver?
Three reasons. Location. History. And a Canada 2026 FIFA men’s World Cup bid.
The short flight between Edmonton and Vancouver is attractive for FIFA executives and media covering the event in such a far-flung number of fixtures.
“This event will be played in five time zones. That’s never been done before,” said Montopoli.
The history involved dates back to 2002 and the FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championships.
The Edmonton U-19 event drew 162,202 for six doubleheader dates including the final which put 47,784 in the fews for the final, with ticket sales cut off two days before the game because of some strange FIFA rule involving walk-up sales.
A lot of people forget that the following year 34,000 fans paid to watch Canada’s deja-vu, bon-voyage game against Mexico prior to the rescheduled 2003 World Cup in Mexico, where they made the medal round.
As for a Canadian bid for the FIFA World Cup — the men’s event, which rivals the Olympics as the biggest sports event on the planet — it’s more than a pipe dream. Pull this off and the Canadian bid would be taken seriously.
“This event is a building block to the next one,” said Montopoli. “After this, the World Cup will be the only FIFA event we haven’t held
With Vancouver’s refurbished B.C. Place, which cost $563 million, and Edmonton’s $130 million in upgrades to Commonwealth Stadium including new green and gold seats which will be installed by the start of football season this year
if it ever stops snowing, they’ll be showcasing the two most attractive stadiums for soccer.
FIFA and the CSA have received assurances of further upgrades in a couple of key areas for Commonwealth Stadium, believed to be dramatically upgraded and (read entirely new) rooms to accommodate four teams and quite likely a world-class, sideline-to-sideline video scoreboard for the south end of Commonwealth Stadium, which would be the event’s legacy