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Volume 24 No. 177

Events and Attractions

Beyond Africa, officials fear Trump’s rhetoric could impact support elsewhere
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Outgoing U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati, who also serves as Chair for the North American bid seeking to stage the '26 World Cup, said that "political factors are complicating the campaign ahead of FIFA's vote this summer," according to Steven Goff of the WASHINGTON POST. The joint effort of the U.S., Mexico and Canada has been "heavily favored to defeat Morocco for the hosting rights." However, Gulati said, "This will be a tough battle. This is not only about our stadiums and our hotels and all of that. It’s about the perception of America, and it’s a difficult time in the world." Speaking at the United Soccer Coaches convention on Thursday, Gulati implied that President Trump’s policies are "impacting the effort." In recent months, people close to the bid have "grown increasingly concerned about their chances as public opinion around the world has turned against the U.S. government." Even without political issues, Morocco was "sure to secure most, if not all, of the support in Africa, FIFA’s largest bloc with 54 votes, which is just over half of what’s needed to win hosting rights." The African confederation will "meet next month to discuss a unanimous endorsement." Beyond Africa, U.S. soccer officials "fear that Trump’s rhetoric could take a toll on support elsewhere as well" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/19).

SOUTH BEACH SOLUTIONS
: In Miami, Douglas Hanks notes the city "risks losing its chance to serve as a World Cup city over the soccer tournament’s demands for contractual protections" at Miami Int'l Airport -- including a provision that "any disputes be resolved by arbitration in Zurich, Switzerland." The dispute revolves around FIFA requirements that MIA "cover unexpected expenses tied to the airport accommodating World Cup travelers and promoting the event." According to a memo from Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, should any requirements "result in conflicts between Miami-Dade and FIFA, county officials would need to head to Zurich, home to the FIFA headquarters, and resolve them in arbitration procedures governed by Swiss law." Gimenez: "The County has clearly expressed to all involved that such requirements are not acceptable." Gimenez wants county commissioners to "approve signing the airport agreement, but with additional terms drafted by Miami-Dade lawyers designed to limit the county’s exposure to surprise costs and disputes with FIFA." Commissioners are "scheduled to vote on the item Tuesday." A statement issued by United Bid Committee Exec Dir John Kristick noted that 32 cities in North America have already "agreed to serve as hosts, though as few as 12 may ultimately be picked to actually host World Cup games" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/19).

The NHL on Thursday said that the decision to select Kid Rock to play at its All-Star Game in Tampa was "'purely based' on his entertainment value and history as a hockey fan," according to Greg Wyshynski of ESPN.com. NHL Exec VP & Chief Content Officer Steve Mayer acknowledged the ASG backlash from earlier this week and said that the league did "consider Kid Rock's recent controversies." But he added, "Our sole objective is to choose musical acts to perform at our events and entertain our fans." Mayer said that one reason Kid Rock was hired is "because he's a longtime Red Wings fan -- one who partied with players" after their '08 Stanley Cup victory. Wyshynski noted the Red Wings were also "criticized" for having Kid Rock open Little Caesar's Arena with a concert in August (ESPN.com, 1/18).

FIRE THE CANNONS
: In Tampa Bay, Paul Guzzo notes the NHL will "share the spotlight in downtown" next weekend with the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates, which is the "first time the game with its Friday through Sunday activities has overlapped with an event as big as Gasparilla." Organizers have been "meeting for months to create synergy between the events." Mayer said, "We don’t want to infringe on their event and they don’t want to infringe on ours. Yet we want to complement each other." When the pirate ship José Gasparilla "docks at the Tampa Convention Center to kick off the parade Saturday, Jan. 27, it will carry" the Stanley Cup and the "trophy’s NHL custodians -- dressed as swashbucklers." The parade’s grand marshal will be former Lightning C Vincent Lecavalier and rather than "tossing foam cannonballs into the parade crowds as is tradition, the Krewe of Gasparilla will throw soft hockey pucks" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/19).

The LPGA is returning to L.A. for the first time in over a decade with a new tournament at Wilshire Country Club. The HUGEL-JTBC Open will debut the week of April 16-22. HUGEL is a South Korea-based beauty products maker, while JTBC, a Korean broadcasting company, is part of the JoongAng Group (LPGA). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth reported the Wilshire Country Club agreed to a "three-year deal" to host the new tournament, which will offer a $1.5M purse for a 144-player field. The LPGA in December had announced that, as "part of its 34-event season, it planned an L.A. return and had the sponsors in place, but still had not locked down the course." The LPGA has been "dominated in recent years by Korean players" and L.A. has the "largest Korean-American population of any city proper" in the U.S. at more than 100,000. Wilshire is also "not far from L.A.’s Koreatown area" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 1/18).