BEVERLY HILLS : City Hoping to Cash In on World Cup

Dismiss the fact that the World Cup soccer games this summer will be played miles away in Pasadena. City officials have some goals of their own in mind: They want Beverly Hills to be the social hub of the festivities.

Other cities may have plans to woo tourists, too, but surely none will try with chimpanzees, enough paella to feed 500 people or a Swiss tradition involving 35 wooden cows.

"Beverly Hills stepped out, realizing there is an opportunity with international tourists coming to the Los Angeles area," said Mayor Vicki Reynolds. "And Beverly Hills is one of the top--if not the top--tourist destination in Los Angeles County. We're going to take advantage of the opportunity to promote Beverly Hills."

The city's monthlong series of special events, "Beverly Hills Salutes the World," is aimed at cashing in on the estimated 800,000 visitors whom World Cup organizers predict will spend $621 million in Southern California during the June 17 to July 17 tournament at the Rose Bowl.

The city has earmarked $70,000 for street banners and other expenses to organize the event in which each day will honor one of 24 countries participating in the World Cup.

The events range from the exotic to the excessive. Organizers of Nigeria's day, for instance, hope to bring a baby elephant, cheetah, lion and chimpanzees to Rodeo Drive to highlight the country's wildlife.

Spain is going to lead a cook-off with the preparation of a 2,200-pound paella--stirred with a shovel. On Switzerland's day, to symbolize the tradition, there will be a re-enactment of leading cows up the Alps for grazing. In this case, 35 life-size wooden cows adorned with flowers will be posed as if walking through the faux-European shopping mall of Two Rodeo.

City eateries hope to get a piece of the action, said restaurateur David Slay, who predicted Beverly Hills will top tourists' lists of places to visit.

"Sure, tourists will want to see the ocean, and will visit Santa Monica. But I have friends in the restaurant business there, and they have never been contacted by anyone about the World Cup," said Slay, who is organizing fellow restaurateurs to promote the eateries during the World Cup.

Representatives of the West African country Cameroon said they were thrilled when Beverly Hills approached them to join in the events.

"It certainly boosted our morale," said Sequoia Mercier, the local spokeswoman for JEMEA, a group of about 200 Cameroon artists who will promote their country's culture during the games. They will hold an art exhibition in Beverly Hills.

Pasadena officials said Beverly Hills would not be cornering the market on entertaining visitors.

"We really don't see (Beverly Hills) as competition. We believe more people will want to stay here since we're the venue city," said Denise Nelson Nash, the city's World Cup coordinator.

She said it has been estimated that 1.6 million people will visit Pasadena--100,000 spectators per game in the Rose Bowl. Nine games have been scheduled for the stadium. Pasadena will hold 30 events for residents and visitors during the monthlong tournament, which culminates in the championship match July 17, she said.

"Beverly Hills is quite a trek for some people," said Nash. "But the more activities and excitement surrounding World Cup, the better for all of us."

Reynolds agreed, up to a point. Beverly Hills, she said, is simply better known around the world than Pasadena.

"With the numbers of tourists they expect, there is plenty for everyone. But I just think that with so many international tourists, their natural focus is here in Beverly Hills."

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