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A warm-hearted welcome

The effort by the Chinese to reach into the hearts of visitors is what the Local Organising Committee believes will be the defining factor in differentiating this year’s World Cup from previous tournaments. Becky Wang, LOC Executive Deputy General Secretary Director, explains, “We will do our utmost to make our World Cup one of the most successful in history. Having show their generous support and warm-hearted welcome to the visiting teams and fans during the 2004 Asian Cup, the Chinese people will have a chance to expand on this and embrace the whole world with their enthusiasm and love for football.”
Passion for football will be no higher than the cities selected to host the FIFA Women’s World Cup from 10 to 30 September 2007. Chenghdu, Wuhan, Shanghai and Tianjin have very strong footballing traditions. The fifth venue, Hangzhou, is an emerging football power with its Lucheng FC promoted to the Chinese Super League for the first time this season.
While there is no shortage of male supporters, large scale efforts will be undertaken in all of the five venues prior to the World Cup to boost women’s interest in the game. From June until the start of the tournament in September, a series of mini-football games will be run exclusively for women. Small areas of artificial turf will be laid in town centers so that women and girls can have a lot of fun at the same time.
Through the implementation of initiatives such as the mini-football games that go beyond the successful organization of competition, the Local Organising Committee hopes to leave a legacy for the sport in China by laying a solid foundation for its future success. With the country’s focus on the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, this has not been an easy task however. Jessie Dai from the LOC reports, “With two major global sporting events in two years, we have had to leave no stone unturned in terms of generating support and interest in the Women’s World Cup and ensuring that we are not left in the shadow of the Olympics. Consequently, we now have BOCOG members sitting on our committees and observing our events to maximize cooperation and learning between the two organizations for example. Despite the difficulties posed by the two events running so close together, Chinese public have demonstrated their willingness to get behind the FIFA Women’s World Cup since being awarded hosting rights in 2003. The event is a household topic, and news about its progress and likely Chinese stars is widely reported across the country.”
Let us hope the talented Steel Roses – respected players such as Ma Xiaoxu, Han Duan, Li Jie, Qu Feifei and Han Wenxia – can deliver on expectations of a strong host nation showing. Combine that with China’s 5,000-year-old history and culture, exotic food, warm hospitality and, last but not least, great passion for football, and you truly have a tournament that dreams are made of.