New Orleans is about to do what it does best, better than any other city in the world. We're hosting the Super Bowl and following right behind it with Mardi Gras. We've done this before — nine times before, in fact. The last time New Orleans hosted the Super Bowl was in 2002, right after the horrific 9/11 attacks. The NFL considered moving the game to New York City that year as a symbolic gesture after pushing the game back one week. With NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's help, the Super Bowl stayed in The Big Easy, and it was a huge success. We expect nothing different this time, as New Orleans hosts the Super Bowl for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.
Our city and its people will be on display as never before. The world's media (an estimated 5,000 journalists) are descending on New Orleans, as are executives from the nation's largest companies. While the Super Bowl officially crowns the NFL champion, it also has become the nation's leading corporate event. If ever there were an opportunity for New Orleans to promote itself as a great place not only to visit but also to live and work, this is it. Sure, we do things differently here, but as Gambit New Orleanian of the Year James Carville loves to say, "In New Orleans, our way of life is our quality of life." Let's show our guests how to live.
We don't need to remind our readers to be even more polite and hospitable than usual this week — our mamas raised us right. But perhaps a few passionate Saints fans — OK, more than a few — need to be reminded that that applies to all of our guests, including Goodell. Recently reinstated New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton sounded the right note last week, saying, "One thing this city does better than any: They know how to entertain and feed you, and there's no better city in the world to host a Super Bowl. ... That would be my answer to anyone, especially the commissioner." Mayor Mitch Landrieu put it even more succinctly: "Mind your P's and Q's." We also would remind Saints fans that Goodell was among the NFL moguls who insisted that the Saints stay in New Orleans after Katrina. He has been a friend to our city. Let's treat him like one.
To our other 150,000 visitors, we hope you notice that New Orleans looks better than it has looked in a long, long time. Locals spent countless hours sitting in downtown traffic to make that happen. Now, thankfully, the orange cones are off busy streets, and the streetcars are back up and running (along with extra buses) to shuttle people to and around downtown. Of course, the fact that the Super Bowl is in New Orleans means visitors can walk from their first-class hotels and New Orleans' many great restaurants and watering holes to the game — something no other Super Bowl host city can match.
Meanwhile, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is completing a $305 million renovation, and the Superdome likewise has had a $330 million facelift. Sure, if you look hard enough you can find things that still need to be fixed, but overall the city looks great. Mayor Mitch Landrieu, city officials and local contractors deserve praise for pulling off the most successful citywide housecleaning in memory.
There are many people to thank for things coming together for this event. Special thanks go to the more than 6,000 volunteers who are turning out to welcome our guests and make sure their visit is memorable. High-fives likewise are due the New Orleans Sports Foundation and the Super Bowl Host Committee. The former put together the winning bid that landed this year's championship game, which a study commissioned by the sports foundation estimated would have an economic impact of more than $430 million. The latter has organized the volunteers, parties and events surrounding the game to make sure every detail comes off without a hitch.
Finally, we acknowledge that some visitors, particularly journalists, may ask about the recent indictment of former Mayor Ray Nagin. Some may even posit that Nagin's indictment proves that not much has changed hereabouts in terms of political corruption. We would hasten to respond that the federal charges against the former mayor actually prove the opposite: New Orleans is working even harder to shed that image than it has worked to spruce up for the Super Bowl. Put another way, if anyone asks about Ray Nagin, perhaps the best response a New Orleanian can offer is ... Who Dat?