OTTAWA—As the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 draws ever closer, Peter Montopoli is endeavouring to impress upon local business leaders and politicians the enormous multi-faceted impacts the international event has in the community, region, and nationally.
As part of the Mayor’s Breakfast Series of speakers held at Ottawa City Hall on Sept. 5, Montopoli, general secretary of the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) and CEO of the National Organising Committee FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015, wants people to embrace the competition and to get involved.
Next year’s Women’s World Cup will be the first major sporting event hosted in Canada from coast to coast, with matches being played in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montréal, and Moncton.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson introduced Montopoli. The two worked together as Ottawa put in the bid to host the Women’s World Cup.
“This will be the single largest sporting event in the history of the city of Ottawa,” Watson said. “We’ve got to get behind it. We’ve got to sell tickets.
“We’ve got to make sure people understand that this is the eyes of the world on the city of Ottawa in 2015.”
Montopoli, who lives and works in Ottawa, has a track record of success with FIFA events in Canada. He ran the momentous 2007 FIFA men’s U20 World Cup, and has been very involved in community engagement and developing the women’s game in Canada at all levels.
‘Never Been Done by FIFA Before’
To host a World Cup across Canada’s five time zones is a mammoth undertaking.
“They’re still trying to understand the concept of time zones. They’re used to Europe,” Montopoli said in his presentation titled “To A Greater Goal.” He spoke in front of an audience of roughly 200 people.
Other major sporting events such as the Vancouver Olympics, or even rock concerts, have either been held in only one city or province, or have not been going on simultaneously across more than one time zone.
Given the logistics of hosting such an event in Canada, Montopoli said it’s “never been done by FIFA before.”
If there was one word that could describe Montopoli’s presentation, it would be “aspirational.”
He and his team want to leave a legacy of sport for women and for Canada. Drawing strength from the Canadian national women’s team’s bronze medal at the London Olympics in 2012, which 10 million people across the country watched, the CSA has introduced top-flight women’s programs at the highest level.
National women’s team coach John Herdman has a slogan: “more Sinclairs, more often,” referring to the great Christine Sinclair, Canada’s most celebrated player.
“So now we have a conveyor belt of players coming through our system that are fully aligned. And it’s never happened before in the 102-year history of Canadian soccer—aligning national, regional, and local soccer,” Montopoli said.
Canadian women will be competing at all levels of FIFA competitions from U17, U20, and the national level from 2016-2018.
Already Canada has the third largest soccer participation of women’s players in the world behind the U.S. and Germany. Germany just won the U20 Women’s World Cup, which was successfully hosted by Canada this summer.
Preparing for and participating in the Women’s World Cup is also about women as leaders. “Players are to become leaders in the community,” Montopoli said. He explained that 70 percent of staff are women in leadership positions.
Measure of Success
Naturally, the CSA aspires to host the most successful Women’s World Cup ever, which would mean having 1.5 million spectators attending the entire competition from coast to coast.
“[That] means the largest-attended FIFA event outside of the men’s World Cup,” Montopoli said. The 1.5 million-spectator mark would eclipse the Vancouver Olympics, which had 12 sports.
If the objective is reached, Montopoli explains, “We put a stamp on the world. It makes a difference in our country.”
In addition to the impact of spectators at games, the reach of FIFA is enormous with 209 member associations and an expected 200 countries broadcasting the event. That reach is bigger than the United Nations.
Montopoli estimates that half a billion people will tune in, which is about the amount watching five Super Bowls. “It’s very, very significant,” he said.
TSN (and CTV) will be broadcasting the event: 52 televised matches, 104 hours of live coverage of the 24 teams. It will be TSN’s first FIFA broadcast.
Economic Impact, Community Engagement
Based on the Sport Tourism Economic Assessment Model put together by the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance in consultation with a number of other bodies including the Conference Board of Canada, economic impacts are expected to be about $16.5 million for Ottawa, $45.6 million for the province of Ontario, and $267.3 million for Canada as a whole.
Ottawa is preparing for the event by building a new structure at Lansdowne Park just south of the downtown core.
The nation’s capital did not host any of the U20 Women’s World Cup games as the facility wasn’t ready in time. In any case, the goal was always to be ready for the 2015 event.
Canada’s multicultural society shines in events like World Cups. Montopoli and his staff conducted an assessment of the volunteers from the 2007 men’s U20 World Cup. It turns out that 52 different nationalities partook as volunteers in the community.
“I think that speaks to our whole society in Canada and the representation in Ottawa,” Montopoli said.
“Community engagement has been spectacular.”
Montopoli described the atmosphere he remembered in 2007 with Brazilian, Argentinean, and Nigerian fans walking along Bank Street in downtown.
“All together, cheering, laughing, having a great time in our city. I think that’s really what this competition is about.”
The event will span 30 days for the 24 countries involved. This is a first, as typically a competition featuring 24 teams runs for 21-22 days. But just like the 32-team men’s World Cup in Brazil, Canada’s 2015 Women’s World Cup will last just as long. The additional eight or nine days are meant to provide additional rest due to the extensive travel.
Montopoli pointed out that Ottawa will be treated particularly well by the schedule, with nine matches in six days. Possibly as many as 12 countries will play in Ottawa including three No. 1 seeds (three of the top six countries in the world.)
Canada, however, may not play in Ottawa as its first two matches will be played in Edmonton and the third in Montréal. The final will be in Vancouver at BC Place on July 5, 2015.
The next big event on the road to the Women’s World Cup in 2015 is, of course, the draw, which will be held Dec. 6, 2014, at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec, just across the river from downtown Ottawa.
Montopoli made a strong case for the audience to get involved in his presentation with videos showing the action, the colors of the fans, and the ads now being carried on major television networks.
He wants Canadians to understand what this event means for women, team sports, and the “beautiful game” in this country. Tickets for the Women’s World Cup go on sale Sept. 10.
“Be a part of something that’s really going to be special,” he said.
Follow Rahul on Twitter @RV_ETSports