Along with Mayor Tom Leppert and our good friends at Telemundo, we got up early this morning and rode over to the Dallas Convention Center, where the FIFA World Cup Soccer Site Selection Committee stopped by to size up the place. Like a team of mall-walking grandmas, they showed up a little after 7 a.m. and breezed through the place in 15 minutes, with Leppert, Dwaine Caraway, Pauline Medrano and DCVB president Philip Jones for tour guides.
It's the last morning of the delegation's whirlwind five-city tour through the U.S., before FIFA decides who'll host the tourney in 2018 and 2022 -- they're expected to make a call in December. Europe's expected to claim the 2018 World Cup, leaving the U.S. in the mix with Australia, Japan, South Korea and Qatar for the next one. The USA Bid Committee's proposing the Cotton Bowl and Cowboys Stadium as World Cup venues, Fair Park for a broadcasting hub -- same as in 1994 -- and the DCC as a home to the FIFA Conference, where the tournament brass meets during the tournament.
To help the delegates wake up this morning, James Madison High School's marching band, "The Fresh Ones," greeted them all with tuba and drum, while the school's cheerleaders waved flags, flipped and tumbled in their honor. Walking into the DCC, delegates crossed a welcome mat that read, "THE GAME IS IN US," which could be a reference to The Wire, or could be really painful on the way back out.
Once he'd given the delegation his warm regards and put them all on the bus to Cowboys Stadium, Leppert stopped to chat with Unfair Park about how it went. "I think they're real positive. We feel real good about 2022," he said. As the tour wrapped, Leppert had paused for a moment outside the DCC to point out the hotel construction across the street. Part of his job today, he told us, was to sell FIFA on what Dallas is going to bring to the table a dozen from now. "You think, gosh the hotel's new, but in 2022, it's gonna be 10 years old," he said. "We're selling conventions in 2019 and 2020, so the lead time on these things, I think, has gotten longer and longer."
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Jump for more shots of how Dallas welcomed the FIFA crew.