The hype machine got rolling yesterday at Dundas Square, as mayor David Miller and former Canadian goalkeeping great Craig Forrest promoted next month's FIFA under-20 World Cup, one of the biggest sporting events Canada has hosted.
The tourney's opener and final will be played in Toronto, along with several other matches. Other games will be held in Edmonton, Burnaby, Victoria, Ottawa and Montreal.
Wearing a personalized Canadian jersey, Miller, a staunch soccer supporter, talked about the impact the tournament -- FIFA's second-biggest, after the World Cup -- will have on the city.
"You see it in both the World and European Cup, Toronto goes crazy," Miller said. "People cheer for their country of origin and now that Canada has got a team in it for the first time, everybody is going to cheer for Canada first. I think we'll see Toronto explode."
A WORLD OF EXPOSURE
Miller was also particularly enthused by the impression he expects the new BMO Field to leave on the rest of the world.
"The final will be viewed by 500 million people. You can't buy that kind of promotion for your city," he said.
Forrest, who toiled for Canada for more than 12 years and carried the team to victory at the 2000 Gold Cup, remarked that it was hard to imagine at any point that his home country would ever host an event of this magnitude.
"I could have never dreamt of it," Forrest said. "I honestly believed it was pie in the sky and was never going to happen ... (but) I'm glad it did."
Canada will compete in Group A, along with Austria, Chile and Congo and opens July 1 against Chile.
The Canadian team looked solid in splitting a pair of tuneups with the Unites States recently, losing 4-1, before rallying for a 4-0 shutout on the strength of three goals from Edmonton's Tosaint Ricketts.
Montreal and Vancouver will join Edmonton and Toronto as hosts of quarter final matches with Edmonton and Toronto also hosting the two semi-finals.
Stars like Maradona, Luis Figo, Thierry Henry, Roberto Carlos and Rui Costa, first gained acclaim at previous tournaments.
The last time a CONCACAF country hosted the tournament was 1983, in Mexico.