While FIFA president Sepp Blatter was surprising and relieving the world at the same time with his resignation announcement in Zurich on June 2, construction workers were busy with some surprises of their own in Vancouver.
A source inside the B.C. Place Stadium, site of the July 5 Women’s World Cup final, tells me they were knocking down walls of Level 3 suites from section 39 to 43, between the Southeast and Southwest Lounges. Frosted glass is being installed, to repel the curious. The reason? Prime match seating for FIFA members and their friends. (When I confirm how much it’s costing and who’s paying, I’ll let you know.)
VIP tents have been erected on street level near Gates D and E, across from the Plaza of Nations. Expect limousines to drop-off and pick-up FIFA members, who will be coming from or going to their luxury seaside accommodation at the Westin Bayshore near Stanley Park (where Howard Hughes famously stayed in 1972). Up on Level 4, seats were removed between sections 12 and 16 to install counters, Internet connectivity and LED TV screens for the press.
Meanwhile, a double-drum steamroller was working its magic on the not-even-a-week-old Polytan Ligaturf synthetic turf. Officials were sweating a day earlier. It seems that tests of ball bounces on the made-to-order FIFA 2-Star field weren’t meeting expectations. This, after hosting Real Salt Lake and the Vancouver Whitecaps in a May 30 Major League Soccer game. RSL players, who were on the losing end of a 2-1 match , complained it was slippery and didn’t enjoy the infill.
Outside the east end of the building, three diesel-powered generators are ready to power the lights over the field of play, lest BC Hydro have a hiccup during a live match broadcast. More are located across Pacific Boulevard, in the Edgewater Casino parking lot now serving as the broadcast compound. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, this was not popular with area residents, who complained about noise and fumes; there was even a diesel spill.
Backup power is standard at mega-events. Just like the International Olympic Committee, FIFA knows that when the lights or cameras go out, the next action is from attention-hungry and budget-conscious sponsors and advertisers asking for refunds. At Euro 2008, power went out during a semi-final between Germany and Turkey.
The tournament kicks off June 6 when Canada hosts China in Edmonton. Action shifts to Vancouver on June 8, when the Japan-led group that includes Cameroon, Ecuador and Switzerland begins play. There are many tickets available for June 8 and 12 and, depending where you work, the discounts are deep.