It’s been said that nobody throws a party like Nashville does.
The city is hoping that FIFA officials feel the same way after coming to town on Thursday to tour the area and assess Nashville’s viability as a potential host site for the world's biggest sporting event -- the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
"It gives us the opportunity to really verify and really see for ourselves and feel for ourselves the information that's been presented,” FIFA Chief Events Officer Colin Smith said of the visit Thursday at Nissan Stadium. “Driving through lower Broadway last night on a Wednesday night, the presentations weren't a lie. That is a very vibrant city, and there's a lot of activity going on.”
The competition is fierce. Nashville is competing with 17 other potential U.S. host cities including Boston, New York, Atlanta, Miami, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Orlando.
But Nashville has been front and center on a national stage before and hasn’t disappointed. The feather in the city’s cap is unquestionably the 2019 NFL Draft. More than 600,000 people flooded downtown Broadway for the three-day event, smashing attendance records, visitor spending records ($132.8 million), and worldwide viewership (47.5 million viewers).
You can also throw in NASCAR’s Ally 400 and Music City Grand Prix earlier this year, the NASCAR awards in 2020 and the Titans uniform unveiling in 2018.
FIFA officials didn’t just come to soak up the night life on lower Broadway, no, they came for business as much as pleasure. Touring multiple fields and facilities including Nissan Stadium, the under-construction Nashville SC stadium, Vanderbilt, Lipscomb, Trevecca, and Currey Ingram Academy.
"Nashville have presented their growth, the successful events they've had, the energy, the passion for major events,” Smith continued. “What we saw this morning was a real integration of all the city and state services that come together to manage and deliver big events. Those are key, important topics for us to understand further.”
Nashville’s push was about more than just the bells and whistles of the city alone. On Thursday, the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation announced a five-person Local Organizing Committee if the city is chosen as a host city for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. The goup will be headed by Nashville SC owner John Ingram with Nashville SC CEO Ian Ayre, Tennessee Titans president and CEO Burke Nihill, Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. president and CEO Butch Spyridon and Ryman Hospitality Properties chairman and CEO Colin Reed serving as co-chairs.
“I think Nashville has put their best foot forward, of course, showing everything it has, everything it can be,” Concacaf president and FIFA vice president Victor Montagliani said. “So, we look forward to continuing our due diligence, working with the officials and the great team (they) have assembled, to see where we go when we finally make a decision."
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_