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Copyright 2013 The Columbus Dispatch
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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)
September 8, 2013 Sunday
501 words
At center of world stage;
Two prestigious sports events will focus attention on central Ohio

Columbus will be in the spotlight among sports fans worldwide in the next several weeks as it welcomes next week's USA vs. Mexico qualifier for the 2014 World Cup in soccer and the Presidents Cup golf tournament in early October. Taken together, the two events are expected to generate more than $25 million in spending from thousands of visitors to central Ohio.

Even more important, the sporting competitions will provide a boost to Columbus' visibility as a venue for sports and as a general destination.

Millions will be watching on television in more than 200 countries and territories around the globe.

The exposure comes as central Ohio steps up efforts to attract even more events and meetings to utilize its revamped convention center and abundant sporting facilities.

"The entire world will be watching Columbus, and I am convinced the world will like what it sees," said Mayor Michael B. Coleman, a tireless cheerleader and ambassador for the city.

The events come as the Greater Columbus Sports Commission prepares to bid for other high-profile sports gatherings, including the women's Final Four basketball championship and three dozen other NCAA championship games.

Columbus hopes to be at the top of the list for the 2015 NHL All-Star Game, since it lost this year's game after it was canceled because of the 2012 NHL lockout.

It certainly doesn't hurt that Columbus has a fine past-champion soccer club in the Columbus Crew, and one of the top golfers of all time, Jack Nicklaus, as a native son and designer of Dublin's Muirfield Village Golf Club.

Central Ohio has benefited for decades from the fame, prestige and drawing power of Nicklaus.

Hosting such big productions involves not just having the right facilities, but the proper planning, logistics and showmanship.

Attracting the Presidents Cup puts the Columbus region in rare company: San Francisco and Prince William County, Va., are the only other U.S. cities to have hosted the tournament.

The World Cup soccer qualifier is "the most sought-after soccer event in our country every four years," said Mark McCullers, general manager of the Crew.

Local officials are confident that Columbus can show it has the right combination of these elements to be able to handle just about any event. And residents, of course, can enjoy the world-class sporting action and surrounding activities in their own backyard. The Presidents Cup opening ceremony will take place at Downtown's Columbus Commons park Oct. 2, featuring a concert by Rascal Flatts.

Those attending the tournament also will be encouraged to visit the popular Short North Gallery Hop on Oct. 5.

"Wear your red, white and blue and show some swagger," Coleman said, encouraging locals to take part in the festivities.

After all, millions will be watching and thousands, including several hundred members of the media, will be visiting Columbus for these events. This is a prime opportunity to engage in some visitor outreach and economic development while having a whole lot of fun.

September 8, 2013

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