Lewis: N.O. ready for Super hospitality

By TED LEWIS

Advocate sportswriter

The Saints didn’t make it.

Neither did Peyton. Or Eli either for that matter.

And even if those Dirty Birds from Atlanta do, that’s not a reason for the city — and its citizens — to put its best foot forward when more than 100,000 visitors arrive in two weeks for Super Bowl XLVII, New Orleans’ record-tying 10th but the first here in 11 years.

At least that was the message delivered Wednesday by local officials in their final briefing/pep talk before the Feb. 3 game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“I’m going to quote Lord Nelson before Trafalgar,” James Carville, co-chair of the local host committee along with spouse Mary Matalin. “‘England expects every man to do his duty.’

“Well, we’ve been here long enough and gone though enough to expect everyone to help show the city in the best possible light.”

Added Mayor Mitch Landrieu, “If Atlanta gets to the Super Bowl, it’s going to be a struggle, but I promise you that I will be on my best behavior and I expect everybody else to be as well.

“It’s important to everybody to be gracious and wonderful hosts and show everyone the kind of hospitality they deserve.”

That includes NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who probably is grateful that the Super Bowl is a national security event lest any wacko Saints fans be thinking about doing the Commish bodily harm.

“Roger Goodell has always been a great friend of the city of New Orleans,” Landrieu said. “He and Paul Tagliabue worked hard to make sure the Saints stayed here and he was a great advocate for the city to get this Super Bowl.”

Much of the hospitality responsibilities will fall on the 6,000 volunteers, culled down from an original applicant list of 17,000 who will fill some 12,500 assignments.

That includes greeters at the airports, hotels and other venues who will be equipped with I-Pads containing apps for such esoteric functions as providing information on wait times for the most popular restaurants to allowing on-line tips for street musicians.

But while the emphasis Wednesday was on being kind to tourists it was also pointed out that landing the Super Bowl has been the impetus for more than $1 billion in infrastructure improvements in advance of the city’s tricentennial celebration in 2018 when it’s hoped there will be another Super Bowl here.

Most notable among the improvements has been the long-overdue renovations to Louis Armstrong Airport.

While creating traffic inconveniences in the CBD, the work, Landrieu said, is “99.6 percent” completed and obviously will remain to benefit locals long after the game.

In other words, even for those who might not be sports fans, having the Super Bowl here is a BIG DEAL.

“This is about the comeback of a great American city,” Carville said. “We’ve been here for 294 years and we plan on being here for another 294.”