NEW ORLEANS — City officials and members of the Super Bowl XLVII Host Committee rolled out the red carpet Monday to officially begin the countdown for New Orleans’ record-tying 10th Super Bowl.
With the San Francisco 49ers already in town and Baltimore Ravens en route, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and host committee co-chairs James Carville and Mary Matalin pitched the city as the ultimate Super Bowl destination during an afternoon news conference.
With a record number of more than 5,200 media credentialed for Sunday’s game, they — along with Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation CEO Jay Cicero and Saints owner/vice chairman Rita Benson LeBlanc — took the opportunity to talk up the city’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina.
“It’s been an incredible 31/2 years,” Landrieu said of the length of time that passed since being awarded the game. “People kept saying, ‘You can’t … you can’t.’ But we did.”
It’s New Orleans first chance to host the NFL’s title game in 11 years and 10th overall, which ties it with Miami for most times serving as host.
Shortly after their work is finished next week, Cicero said the host committee will begin making sure the city remains on a four- or five-year rotation as a Super Bowl site.
The plan is to next go after the 2018 game, which would coincide with the 300th anniversary of the founding of New Orleans.
The process will begin at the owners’ fall meetings in October and the game will be awarded in May 2014, Cicero said. Next year’s game will be played in the New Jersey Meadowlands and goes to Glendale, Ariz., the following season, with the 2016-2017 games still to be awarded.
“It’s an extremely competitive and incredibly competitive process,” Cicero said, noting that New Orleans beat out Phoenix and Miami back in 2009 to host this year’s game.
Carville is unabashed in his praise of the city and his home state, especially when it comes to hosting the Super Bowl.
“This is not just a city,” he said Monday, “it’s a culture.”
Sitting in front of a large group of reporters, Carville pointed out why the game should come here every four years. The biggest reason is having everything downtown within walking distance, especially the French Quarter, as opposed to cities that have to bus people everywhere.
“We’re more efficient; you don’t have to create anything in New Orleans,” he said. “It’s been here for 294 years. We just have to put a little polish on it and shine it up a little. But it’s 294 years … that stands on its own.”
Speaking of the French Quarter, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said he’s not worried about his team being headquartered on the edge of the hot tourist spot.
“It’s something that some of the players have addressed and we have talked about very little,” he said when asked about a curfew. “We trust our team.”
Harbaugh noted team members didn’t take a lot of pictures or videotape their arrival Sunday night like many other players often do.
“Nobody talked about that. … That was something that our team didn’t do for some reason,” he added. “Suffice to say, we just trust our team.”
While the 49ers arrived a day earlier than they were required to, the Ravens left just after noon on Monday.
After departing from their suburban Baltimore headquarters, their convoy to the airport passed through the downtown Inner Harbor where fans lined the streets to give their team a proper sendoff.
“It was an incredible sendoff,” said coach John Harbaugh. “I’m not sure how many thousands of fans there were, but it was lots of thousands. They were out there is a cold drizzle, but they just went crazy.”
In a fan chat on the website Reddit.com on Monday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the Saints won’t get back the 2013 second-round draft pick he docked them for their role in the alleged bounty program.
“No, the penalty will continue to include the second-round draft choice in 2013,” wrote Goodell, who also took away the Saints’ second-round pick in 2012 as part of their punishment.
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