The NFL Minnesota Vikings will play the Pittsburgh Steelers at London's Wembley Stadium on Sept 29, the league announced Tuesday night. It will be the first of two NFL games at Wembley next year. The San Francisco 49ers will face the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 27. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, "Since we started playing regular-season games in London five years ago, we have heard very clearly from our U.K. fans -- they want more football. We are excited to play two games in London and take this next step in the growth of our game. We believe that more football will lead to more fans." This will be the Steelers' first game in London. The Vikings, which will be the home team, played a preseason game at Wembley in '83 (NFL). In London, Martin Pengelly reported the NFL claims to have a U.K. fan base of 11 million, 2 million of which consider themselves to be "avid fans." The league said that Sunday viewership of NFL games in the U.K. is up 154%, and the Super Bowl audience has increased 74% since '06. The Jaguars announced in August they would play four games at Wembley over four seasons. Later this season, the St. Louis Rams will face the New England Patriots at Wembley on Oct. 28 (GUARDIAN, 10/16).
Events and Attractions
The "preparation of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi continues to worry the IOC," according to the DPA. Int'l Ski Federation (FIS) President Gian Franco Kasper said that Sochi "still looks like a construction site." Kasper said, "In addition, the venues are still not finished." Kasper took part in an IOC inspection last week. The ski jumping stadium is still missing a judges tower. The tower is supposed to be temporarily build for the World Cup ski jumping event in December and completed by February. Kasper said he was "shocked about the conditions that fans will encounter in '14." The organization committee drastically reduced the number of people who are allowed to travel to the competitions in the mountains. Kasper said, "The ski jumping event can, due to constructional and safety reasons, but also due to transportation and traffic problems, only be attended by 7,500 people. This includes journalists, sponsors and the Olympic family. The IOC has to set a quota of who is allowed to attend and who is not" (DPA, 10/16).
Pakistan will host a World XI for two Twenty20 matches "in hopes of moving a step closer to resuming home internationals," which have been suspended for more than three years, according to the AFP. Foreign teams have refused to play in Pakistan since '09, "when the Sri Lankan team was attacked as they arrived for the third day of the second Test in Lahore, leaving eight people dead." The host team will be the Pakistan All Stars in Karachi, which will play on Saturday and Sunday. Sindh province Sports Minister Mohammad Ali Shah said that the matches "will help restore Pakistan's image in the world." Shah said, "We hope that this small step will pave the way for other teams to tour Pakistan, and by staging these matches we hope to send a clear message that our country is safe for international sports" (AFP, 10/16).
PCB DISTANCES ITSELF: The PTI added the Pakistan Cricket Board "has distanced itself" from the two Twenty20 matches being played between the World XI and Pakistan Stars XI. Although the PCB did say that it supports the matches, it also "made it clear that foolproof security, anti-corruption measures, marketing and broadcasting of the matches remained the responsibility of the organisers." The PCB said that it "wished all success to Shah" and pointed out that it had "released players to participate in the matches" (PTI, 10/16).
Wimbledon CEO Richard Lewis "reiterated his wish" for the Grand Slam tournament to be pushed back a week, according to the London GUARDIAN. Lewis said, "Only having two weeks between Paris and Wimbledon is recognised by most people to be too short. Having an extra week allows the players more rest and recuperation. It allows more build-up, publicity and profile building for the Championships." Several top players are "supporting the idea" of having an extra week between the French Open and Wimbledon. Earlier this year, No. 2-ranked Novak Djokovic said, "We need an extra week. It would work in the favour of players because it would give the top ones a little bit more time to get used to the surface." Lewis added, "The jump from clay to grass is the biggest leap of all, so having a longer lead-in period to Wimbledon makes sense" (GUARDIAN, 10/16).
Five cities submitted their bids to host the 2018 Youth Olympic Summer Games to the IOC. Those cities are Buenos Aires (Argentina), Glasgow (Scotland), Rotterdam (Netherlands), Guadalajara (Mexico) and Medellin (Columbia). The IOC will announce its decision on July 4 (SID, 10/16). ... Houston has been awarded the Int'l Rugby Women's Sevens World Series. The city will host 12 int'l women's teams Feb. 1-2, at the BBVA Compass Stadium. The int'l teams are: New Zealand, England, Australia, Canada, Netherlands, Brazil, South Africa, Russia, Japan, Argentina, Trinidad & Tobago and the U.S. This int'l series will be hosted annually in Houston through '15, leading up to the 2016 Rio Games, where rugby will debut as one of the new Olympic sports (BBVA Compass Stadium). ... The Thailand Golf Association will host the 78th Singha Thailand Amateur Open this week and the 5th Singha Thailand Junior World Golf Championships 2012 next month. TGA President Rangsrid Luxitanond said that 15 countries including South Korea, Singapore, Denmark and the Philippines are participating in the Singha Thailand Amateur Open at Panya Golf Club in Bangkok, which began Tuesday and culminates Friday (BANGKOK POST, 10/14). ... Hong Kong submitted its bid for either the '16 or '18 world short course championships, "confident it can raise the money required to host the event." A special team from swimming's governing body, FINA, will make a site visit to Hong Kong next month to inspect the facilities, and a decision will be made in December during the '12 short course championships in Istanbul (SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST, 10/16).