For the soccer community, the essential numbers are 24 teams, 52 matches and 31 days. For the business community, they are 1.4 million foreign tourists and $500 million in tourist spending. Coming in 33 days to a stadium near you, the World Cup.
A glance at the sites and scenes:
WORSE YET, THEY HAVE TO WAIT FOR THE STANFORD BAND TO LEAVE THE FIELD
With assistance from the ballpark version of a SWAT team, the organizing committee’s Architecture, Construction and Turf team (ACT), all nine venues have received FIFA’s good groundskeeping seal of approval.
To meet international standards, fields were widened, crowns were removed and artificial grass was replaced by the real thing.
The Rose Bowl, which already had natural turf, replanted it twice within the last year. Its first field of dreams withstood the UCLA football season but not the recent Pink Floyd concerts.
The stadium is the only one that has not been tested by soccer within the last year--that will happen June 4 in a game between the United States and Mexico--but FIFA officials expect it to pass.
The only concern they admit to involves Stanford Stadium, where university officials will not completely turn over the field to FIFA until after graduation exercises June 12. That is only eight days before the first game there.
“Commencement comes first, not World Cup soccer,” said Lois Wagner, Stanford’s director of events and services.
I CAN’T TALK NOW, I’VE GOT TO MOW THE DOME
Perhaps it’s not Tonya and Nancy, or Lorena and John, or the Menendez brothers, but the installation of natural turf inside the Pontiac Silverdome is big news, and not only in agronomy circles.
On a recent afternoon, Sports Illustrated photographers were in Pontiac, Mich., taking pictures of a Thai television crew, which was filming the grass growing. And you thought soccer was slow.
Because so much soccer is played outdoors during chilly winter months, FIFA wanted to experiment with a domed stadium to see whether the concept would work in other parts of the world.
The first question was whether it was feasible to grow grass indoors. Professors at Michigan State’s Crop and Soil Sciences Department bet that it was, and 6 million pounds of Kentucky bluegrass, soil from Camarillo’s Pacific Earth Resources Sod Farm and $1.5 million later, they appear to be right.
“What they have done in Michigan is a miracle,” German Coach Berti Vogts said after his team played there last summer.
A LATE ENTRY: BERMUDA
The only complaint the German coach had concerned the steamy conditions inside the Silverdome, which, as the site primarily of Detroit Lion games and other winter events, does not have air-conditioning.
Heat and humidity will be a problem at most venues, where many games have been scheduled for the afternoon so that they can be televised in prime time in Europe. European coaches have suggested that South American teams have an advantage because they are more accustomed to sultry conditions, but Brazil wilted in a day game last summer at Washington’s RFK Stadium.
Organizers cannot do much for the players, who are forced to remain on the field for long stretches without breaks because of rules limiting substitutions. But relief has been offered to World Cup staff members and volunteers in two hot spots, Orlando, Fla., and Dallas. They have been issued shorts as part of their uniforms.
PULL OVER, PAL. YOU WERE DOING 97.75 IN A 55.25.
Orlando’s Public Works Dept. is spending $2,500 to erect 100 metric speed-limit signs on routes leading to the Citrus Bowl.
“It’s going to be an awful job for us,” director David Metzker said. “But if we’re truly an international city, we should adopt those standards.”
SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: THE WORLD CUP MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH
“These people eat later than we do, they smoke heavily, and their demands on our services will be unique, compared to what we are used to,” said Stephen Elmont, owner of Mirabelle restaurant in Boston, speaking for a U.S. service industry that is gearing up for an expected 1.4 million foreign soccer fans.
In some cities, restaurants are extending their hours, printing menus in other languages and re-establishing--or at least increasing space for--smoking sections. Hotels that have nonsmoking floors also are reconsidering their policies.
“Then, after the World Cup, we’ll have to figure out how to get the smoke odor out,” Elmont said.
TODAY’S REFEREE: NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF
In their effort to wake up local law enforcement authorities to the threats posed by hooligans, lager louts and other rowdies, the organizing committee’s security experts did too good a job.
Now, FIFA is complaining about an overreaction in Dallas, Palo Alto and Washington, where fences have been constructed around the fields to protect players and referees from overzealous fans. They point to the tragedy at Sheffield, England, in 1989, when 95 were killed and at least 200 injured when they surged forward to escape violence behind them and were crushed against a security fence.
“FIFA is of the opinion that the only things behind fences are prisoners and animals,” said the governing body’s general secretary, Sepp Blatter.
Blatter also argues that misbehaving fans usually do not follow their national teams, but Dallas’ deputy police chief, Rick Hatler, is not buying that after witnessing the destruction in Sweden during the 1992 European Championships.
“The question is not, ‘Will they come?’ ” he said. “It’s how many, and where they will cause problems.”
Waiting for them in Orlando is Kevin Beary, the sheriff of Orange County, Fla., who prepared for the World Cup with crowd and terrorist control training in Belfast. His most recent budget request included $262,000 for riot gear, bomb-squad devices and other items such as groin protectors for his deputies and shin guards for horses. The day after a violent confrontation at an
Orlando concert between police and Grateful Dead fans, Beary’s request was approved.
MEANWHILE, IN WASHINGTON, BILL CLINTON IS STILL PULLING FOR ARKANSAS
Although they have to cross an ocean to get here, Germany and Italy would not be more at home if they were playing in Munich or Milan.
About 30,000 Germans are expected to travel with their team to its first-round matches in Chicago, where they will be greeted by a thriving community from back home. The largest crowd ever to attend a soccer game there, 54,000, watched the Germans play at Soldier Field last summer.
The best-known German restaurant in the Loop, the Berghoff, is postponing vacations for its employees in anticipation of 4,000 customers a day, twice the usual summer crowd, and the Chicago Brauhaus on the North Side is erecting a tent in its parking lot to handle all the diners it expects.
But no team is likely to be greeted more enthusiastically than the Azzurri . Three million people of Italian descent within 50 miles of New York made it virtually impossible to get tickets to the team’s first-round games at the New Jersey Meadowlands.
AND IN BOSTON, NIGERIAN EYES ARE SMILING
Nothing against Argentina, Bolivia, Greece, Nigeria and South Korea, but Boston, where one in every four persons is of Irish descent, was praying that Ireland would play its first-round games there. Even the city’s Italian-American mayor, Thomas Menino, wore a green tie on the day of the draw.
When Ireland was sent elsewhere, Austin O’Conor, the owner of three Irish pubs in Boston, was sobered. But that condition lasted only for a couple of moments before he perked up. Turning to a friend, he asked, “What does a Nigerian drink?”
IN DETROIT, THEY THINK MARADONA IS THE BLONDE SINGER WITH THE CONE-SHAPED BRASSIERE
Desperately seeking a home is America’s team, whose fans usually are drowned out by those favoring the opponent even at games played in the United States. For an example, check out the United Sates-Mexico exhibition on June 4 at the Rose Bowl.
But U.S. players believe they finally will be embraced in Pontiac, where they open against Switzerland on June 18 before playing their other two first-round games at the Rose Bowl.
“I think we will be the home team this time,” defender Desmond Armstrong said. “I mean, Motor City. Motown. That’s America right there.”
If Armstrong is there, however, it will be as a spectator or TV commentator. He was cut from the team last week.
And one Detroit native believes that the only way the U.S. players will be loved there is if they switch to the kind of football usually played in the Silverdome.
Said Buffalo Bill owner Ralph Wilson, who once owned an extraordinarily unsuccessful soccer franchise in Detroit: “Soccer, I think, is a terrible spectator sport. Millions like it in Europe, Asia or wherever they play it. They don’t like it in Detroit.”
WHAT IS A SIX-LETTER WORD FOR A SPORT IN WHICH YOU CAN’T USE YOUR HANDS?
Officials responsible for making sure that the World Cup runs smoothly in the various cities range from those with little previous soccer experience to those whose lives have revolved around the sport.
Among the former are Paul Klepper, a former Marine officer who pulled duty during Operation Desert Storm in the White House situation room and now serves as the assistant venue director in Washington, and Olympic triple jumper Willie Banks, who is the assistant venue director in Pasadena.
One of the latter is Farrukh Quraishi. A former Hermann Trophy winner, college soccer’s equivalent of the Heisman, and a professional player for six years with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, he is the venue director in Orlando.
But perhaps the only official who still wakes up every morning asking, “Why me?” is Jay Pritzker, the Hyatt chief who became chairman of Chicago’s host committee at the behest of Mayor Richard Daley.
“I knew nothing, absolutely nothing about soccer,” Pritzker recently told the Chicago Tribune. “And you want to know what I know about it now? I know there are 11 men on a team, and I know that because it’s an answer in crossword puzzles.”
SO WHAT’S NEW? THE CUBS HAVE BEEN BOOTING THE BALL FOR YEARS
Church bells didn’t ring when FIFA announced the World Cup was coming to America, but cash registers did. Commerce Department officials estimate that foreign soccer fans will spend $500 million, almost a fifth in Southern California. The expected benefits to some cities, however, cannot be measured in dollars, pesos or marks.
One city eager to project itself in a better light is Detroit, which, according to GQ, has the image of “Sarajevo with car plants.” The city’s host committee chairman, Roger Faulkner, told the magazine, “We’ve had more written about us in the last six months than in the last six years--and it’s not been about unemployment or crime, either. We are going to change the perception of Detroit worldwide.”
Another city attempting to make itself over is Chicago, where Gerald Roper, president of the city’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, “We have the opportunity to dispel our old image and put Al Capone in the grave once and for all.”
Times columnist Mike Downey contributed to this story.
World Cup Stadiums
Capacities for the nine World Cup stadiums, as announced Thursday by World Cup USA 1994:
CITY STADIUM CAPACITY Chicago Soldier Field 63,117 Dallas Cotton Bowl 63,998 East Rutherford, N.J. Giants Stadium 75,338 Foxboro, Mass. Foxboro Stadium 53,644 Orlando, Fla. Citrus Bowl 61,219 Pasadena Rose Bowl 91,794 Pontiac, Mich. Pontiac Silverdome 77,557 Palo Alto Stanford Stadium 80,906 Washington RFK Stadium 53,142