Written by Adrian Brijbassi Vacay.ca Columnist
Jon Wilson stood on Robson Street staring east to the throng of Americans parading toward the host stadium of the Women’s World Cup final and declared the scene was “awesome.” Wilson was ecstatic that his last-minute trip from Oregon turned out to be even better than he had hoped — and that was before the United States trounced Japan 5-2 to win the tournament championship.
“My daughter plays soccer and with this being the 4th of July long weekend, it was good timing. We wanted to make this trip to give her something she’d always remember and maybe some inspiration to keep going, to keep playing to reach this level too,” said Wilson, whose family purchased four tickets to the game on an online ticketing website after the US advanced to the final by beating Germany on June 30. They then made the six-hour drive to spend three nights in Vancouver and enjoy the decidedly pro-American atmosphere in the streets.
While the FIFA tournament was a national event, with six Canadian cities hosting games, Vancouver has been the big winner — especially because the Americans made the final. While tickets for the championship match were sold out long ago, the influx of visitors from south of the border spiked spending this weekend. The City of Vancouver said the nine Women’s World Cup matches it hosted was expected to result in $36.7 million for its economy. That total could rise given the last-minute arrivals by Wilson and his compatriots.
Hotel rooms were reportedly going for more than $500 per night at mediocre properties and about $900 per night for a luxury stay. Meanwhile, home owners were tapping into Airbnb to rent their couches for about $150 per night.
Sales of USA merchandise was so brisk that a leading downtown sports retailer was expecting a sell out before game time. Referring to the T-shirts and team paraphernalia at his store, Randy Vogt of Robson Sports told the Economic Times: ”By Sunday they’ll be gone. Having the US in the final is great for our business.”
Television ratings on Fox Sports have more than doubled those of the 2011 tournament, when Japan beat the US in the final in Germany.
While ticket sales were expected to fall short of the organizers’ goal of 1.5 million, they will still top 1.3 million and obliterate the 845,751 sold in Germany and top the previous mark of 1.2 million sold, set in 1999. It’s expected that more than 70 million people around the world will have tuned into at least a portion of Sunday’s championship match.
Throughout the city, parties were held on Friday and Saturday nights, including at the luxurious Vancouver Club, where French Champagne maker Taittinger poured on the bubbly and awarded a pair of tickets to the final.
On the streets, the scene was riveting. Exuberant fans went berserk on Sunday as they marched down Robson Street, a benevolent army of flag-waving, eagle-head-wearing, “USA”-chanting, ticket-waving travellers who were determined to make the most of the experience.
When the Americans scored in the fourth minute, the crowd burst into such loud shrieking that from the outside it sounded like a jet engine revving into flight. More than 53,000 fans attended the final, several of them paying about $1,000 per ticket, the going re-sale rate online and from scalpers in the streets.
For a tournament that began with international soccer dealing with questions of scandal from FIFA’s headquarters, the month-long Women’s World Cup ends with an exclamatory statement about both the revenue potential of the sport and the ability of Vancouver to put on a fantastic show.
One FIFA worker from Zurich told me, “Vancouver has been incredible. I’ve been here an entire month and I don’t want to go back. It’s been sunny, the games have been great, the support has been incredible.”
For Canada, the tournament will generate about $267 million, according to organizers. The greater benefit, however, could come in months and years to come when viewers will be inspired to visit the nation based on what they saw and heard during the event’s 52 matches.