All eyes on Cardiff for greatest show on earth


IT'S the biggest sporting show on earth this year - and it's coming to Cardiff.

A global audience of 200 million is expected to watch the UEFA Champions League Final live when it comes to the Welsh capital in June.

And more than 170,000 people are expected to arrive in Cardiff for the final on Saturday, June 3, when the best players in Europe bid for UEFA Champions League glory at the National Stadium of Wales (the name of the Principality Stadium for the event).

Work to prepare for the UEFA Champions League weekend has been going on behind the scenes for many months and in just a few weeks, the eyes of the world will fall on Cardiff for one of the greatest sporting events on the planet.

Cardiff Council has been working closely with the Football Association of Wales, Welsh Government, South Wales Police and the Principality Stadium to ensure the UEFA Champions League Final in Cardiff goes down in history as a truly fantastic sporting spectacle.

The event is estimated to have an economic benefit of approximately £45m to Cardiff and the wider region.

Throughout the knockout stages of the tournament, The Road to Cardiff branding has been used at every game and it is expected to reach a global TV audience of 1.3 billion people by the end of the competition.

Another direct benefit to Cardiff is a state-of-the-art, five-a-side artificial pitch being built in Grange Gardens in Grangetown and funded by the UEFA Grassroots Programme and the FAW.

With final preparations in full swing, the city is pulling out all the stops to make it an event to remember.

A free, four-day UEFA Champions Festival is being staged in Cardiff Bay from Thursday, June 1, to Sunday, June 4.

While the match itself will not be screened live at the festival - as with every other UEFA Champions League Final - there will be a whole host of attractions for visitors to enjoy during the four days.

They include an amazing floating five-a-side football pitch in the bay, the UEFA Champions Gallery football museum, the official UCL Final 2017 Megastore and live entertainment.

There will also be the chance for visitors to have a free picture taken with the UEFA Champions League Trophy itself.

A highlight of the festival will see legends of the beautiful game playing in the UEFA Ultimate Champions Match on Friday, June 2.

The festival is open to everyone but it is expected to be particularly busy on the Saturday, with fans from the two teams in the final soaking up the atmosphere ahead of the game.

And with the city's roads and public transport likely to be extra busy on the Saturday, Cardiff residents are being encouraged to visit the festival on the Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

The festival will close at 5pm on the day of the final, ahead of the opening ceremony at 7.30pm and kick off at 7.45pm.

The UEFA Women's Final is at Cardiff City Stadium on June 1 with a 7.45pm kick off.

Hosting such a major event will see one of the biggest ever security operations staged in Cardiff as well as road closures in and around the city centre and Cardiff Bay.

During the four days of the festival, there will be extensive road closures in Cardiff Bay. And a number of city centre roads will be closed from midnight on Friday, June 2, to the early hours of Sunday, June 4.

There will be an increase in visual policing and some officers will be armed.

This is not because of any specific intelligence on the event but due to the heightened global threat of terrorism.

Extra security measures will be in place on certain roads to create an Inner Secure Area in the city centre.

Businesses and residents affected by road closures are being contacted by council officers to discuss issues such as parking, deliveries and waste management.

A series of drop-in information sessions for residents not normally affected by stadium events was well attended.

This is a global event on an unprecedented scale for the city and travel by road within Cardiff on the day of the final will be particularly disrupted.

The council strongly advises local people to travel on foot or by bus and leave their cars at home. 

The combination of road closures and tens of thousands of fans arriving in the city on June 3 means people are advised to plan ahead and only travel by car along the M4 corridor if their journey is essential.

A spokesperson for Cardiff Council said: "Playing host to the UEFA Champions League Finals will create a huge and lasting economic legacy for Cardiff which will continue to be of benefit to the city for many years to come.

"It has been estimated that this hugely prestigious sporting event will have an economic benefit of approximately £45m to Cardiff and the wider region.

"Throughout the knockout stages, The Road to Cardiff branding has been used at every game and is expected to reach a global TV audience of 1.3 billion people by the end of the tournament.

"And the monetary value of the print, broadcast and online media coverage of the UEFA Champions League and Cardiff is estimated to be more than £8.5m.

"Staging such a world-class sporting occasion in Cardiff, when the eyes of the world will be upon us, will generate a massive and long-lasting boost for the whole city - its people, its businesses, its hospitality and tourism trade and its universities."

Jonathan Ford, Chief Executive of the Football Association of Wales, said: "The spotlight will be shining on Cardiff and it will once again give us the opportunity to showcase the way in which we police major events here in South Wales.

"One of the FAW's key strategic objectives is to attract major football finals to Wales, and to use those finals to inspire increased participation in the sport and the many cultural and health benefits associated with it.

"While many hundreds of millions of people worldwide will watch the men's and women's finals on TV, the people of Wales will have opportunities to engage with and enjoy all the associated events.

"I encourage those who can to come out and soak up the atmosphere of a European final."

Tom Legg, Head of Transport for the event, said: "A significant amount of effort is going into planning the transport arrangements for the event so we ensure the city keeps moving and those coming to Cardiff have a great experience.

"We have been working closely with our transport partners, including Network Rail, Great Western Railways, Arriva Trains Wales, National Express, Traffic Wales, Highways England, Cardiff Airport and Bristol Airport, for many months.

"While an event of this scale is a fantastic opportunity for the region, there will inevitably be some local disruption due to the sheer number of people in town.

"We are embarking on a programme of activity to ensure people and businesses understand the potential impact of the event on their regular journeys, particularly on Saturday, June 3."

South Wales Police Superintendent Steve Furnham said: "An event of this magnitude requires a large scale safety and security operation which has been in the planning along with our partners for months.

"We will be welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors to our capital city and we want them to be able to look back on their experience with great memories of their visit to Wales.

"As well as the challenges of an influx of international visitors to Cardiff, we also need to consider the impact this event will have on the people who live, work and travel in and around Cardiff."

Mark Williams, General Manager at The National Stadium of Wales, the official name of the stadium for the staging of the 2017 UEFA Champions League Final, said: "The UEFA Champions League Final is a massive coup for the city and we're working closely with our city-centre partners to deliver the world's greatest UEFA Champions League experience for sports fans coming to Cardiff in June.

"Visitors to the city never fail to be blown away by the unique central location occupied by Wales' national stadium and collectively we want to create that vibrant carnival atmosphere that Wales is known for when hosting major events and leave a lasting impression on our visitors and the people of Wales."

For the very latest on the city's preparations, including all of the information on road restrictions and closures, log on