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Wednesday, 3 January, 2001, 23:05 GMT
'Jewel in the Crown' for Cardiff

News that the jewel in the crown of British football - the FA Cup Final - is to be staged at Millennium Stadium provides a major coup for Wales.

The prestige event - with a potential worldwide audience of 2 billion - will cap a fantastic two years for the stadium in the heart of Cardiff.

Built to celebrate the Millennium on the site of rugby's legendary Cardiff Arms Park, the stadium opened in style as the home of the 1999 Rugby World Cup.

Rugby World Cup fans
The world cup brought an extra 80m to Wales
Even before the World Cup opened the 72,000 seater stadium was being praised as a venue to dwarf its biggest rivals - Stade Francais in Paris and Australia's Olympic Stadium.

The World Cup's opening ceremony in October 1999 featuring Wales's finest singers including Bryn Terfel, Shirley Bassey, and Cerys Matthews of Catatonia brought the stadium to the world's attention.

Five weeks of first class rugby followed with Australia eventually emerging as champions,and not even a ticketing fiasco which dominated the tournatment's opening week could wipe away the success of the Millennium Stadium's debut.

The economic spin offs of the stadium were immediately obvious, as both the Welsh and overseas visitors flocked to the stadium.

In total, Wales gained an estimated 80m from staging the World Cup.

Shirley Bassey
Shirley Bassey: Opened the World Cup
The tournament also gave Wales an unprecedented opportunity to market itself around the world.

Next came Millennium Eve and the stadium fittingly provided the venue for the biggest event in Wales - a concert for 57,000 fans by the Manic Street Preachers.

Robbie Williams is set to top that by staging two concerts there in July as the highlight of his summer tour.

In August more than 100,000 visitors came to the Welsh Motor Show which was staged for the first time in the stadium.

Ryan Giggs
Ryan Giggs: Millennium stadium winner
Back on the sporting field, as well as last year's Six Nations campaign ,the Millennium Stadium has already had a taste of world cup football.

Wales's friendly against Brazil in May drew a capacity crowd boosting its claim to host the FA Cup.

Since then Wales's national football team has used the stadium for a series of friendlies and as the launch pad for their own World Cup campaign.

The Millennium Stadium will also host the Worthington Cup final and the Charity Shield this August - the traditional curtain-raiser played between the Premiership and FA Cup winners.

With the advent of the FA Cup final the flagship Millennium Stadium looks set for a far brighter future than another Millennium attraction - the Dome.

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