While January sees the world football community back from well-earned holidays, the Local Organising Committee (LOC) for the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup in China paid a visit to Wuhan, one of the five venues for this year's world showpiece and hosts for the Final Draw.
With around a month to go before China's traditional lunar New Year, the LOC are piling on preparatory efforts as the Final Draw on 22 April draws ever closer.
When the inspection delegation, headed by LOC Executive Director and General Secretary of China's Football Association Xie Yalong, touched down in Wuhan on 9 January, they wasted no time in getting right down to discussing the work at hand. After hearing a report from the venue organisers, Xie stressed that the Final Draw will mark the beginning of full-scale final preparations for the FIFA Women's World Cup that runs from 10 to 30 September.
"The Final Draw gives us a chance to promote the Women's World Cup across the world and we should take this opportunity to attract attention from fans, especially those in China," said Xie, "That is why we require all-out preparation for the upcoming ceremony and Final Draw."
The CFA boss put forward four principle points: "Producing atmosphere, building promotion, catching the eye of the world and arranging the market".
"While concentrating on preparation, we should cooperate well with the media to give more publicity to the ceremony," he went on to add. "Staging a successful Final Draw will help pave the way for a grand World Cup tournament." The perfect stage
The next day the delegation, accompanied by the Wuhan venue organisers, headed to the city's Science & Technology Exhibition Centre where the Final Draw will be staged. Zhang Jin, Deputy Director of Wuhan's Sport Bureau told FIFA.com how the Centre beat out three other candidates to host the Final Draw.
"Back in 2003, when the previous edition of the Women's World Cup had been planned to be played in China, the famous Yellow Crane Tower was chosen to stage the Final Draw. The ceremony would have been staged at the city's landmark building in May four years ago had it not been relocated to the United States due to an outbreak of SARS."
Zhang said it was the timing that saw Yellow Crane Tower out of contention for the Final Draw this year. "April is a season of much rain in Wuhan so it is impossible to have the Final Draw conducted outdoors, and as a result the Yellow Crane Tower had to be ruled out."
The second possibility, the Heptachord Terrace Theatre was also ruled out as it is still under construction. Thus, the Wuhan Shangri-La Hotel remained as the only contender up against the Science & Technology Exhibition Centre.
"The problem for Shangri-La is that, as a hotel, it does not provide enough space to stage a grand ceremony like the Final Draw," Zhang said. "Therfore, in the latest inspection in December, the FIFA delegation made the final choice. It is the right choice and with the space of 5,000 square metres and its convenient location, the Centre is the ideal place to stage the Final Draw."
Combining history and culture
* When asked about the details of the Final Draw proper, the normally talkative Zhang was careful not to give away too many hints. However, after pondering for a few seconds, he decided not to keep it all a secret from *FIFA.com.
"As you probably know, there will be a game between the Chinese women's team and a world all-star team on the eve of the Final Draw on 21 April to kick off the celebration. And this is a very good chance to attract the attention of the world," Zhang said with a smile.
"While the Draw will be held by FIFA, the LOC have also prepared an entertainment programme, which will revolve around China's footballing history and culture, reflecting the ever-present tradition and passion for the game in the country."
A group of children in traditional Chinese costumes will be playing a game of Cu Ju - the ancient version of football once played in China - at the gate of the Centre to welcome all celebrities and dignitaries present at the Draw.
There will also be traditional musical performances and all manner of entertainment.
"In short," Zhang concluded with an air or confidence and hope, "while we are feeling we just can't wait for the day to come, we will promise to try our best to arrange everything well for the Draw."