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BBC Wales's chief reporter Penny Roberts
"The real challenge will be to ensure that the whole of Wales shares the prosperity"
 real 56k

Thursday, 4 January, 2001, 19:24 GMT
Wales welcomes cup final coup
Rugby world cup crowds
Cardiff's streets were thronged for the Rugby World Cup
Business leaders in Cardiff have welcomed the boost the FA Cup will offer the economy of the Welsh capital.

The decision by the Football Association to hold the final on 12 May at the Millennium Stadium was officially announced on Thursday.

It is the latest in a series of high-profile events for Cardiff, which have included hosting the European summit in 1998 and the Rugby World Cup in 1999, both of which boosted the city's profile worldwide.

The city is currently adjusting to its role as the home of the National Assembly for Wales in the wake of devolution, and events of this size are seen as an endorsement of the capital's international status.

The Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Top venue: The Millennium Stadium
The showpiece 120m Miillennium stadium, with a capacity of 72,000, was built as a millennium project with Lottery money. It was intended mainly to be the home of Welsh rugby, but also to attract top sporting and entertainment events.

Securing the FA Cup while Wembley is being rebuilt is a major coup for the stadium organisers.

The FA had considered alternative venues such as Twickenham and Murrayfield as well as football club grounds across the country, including Old Trafford and Villa Park.

St Mary Street, Cardiff
Cup boost: Cardiff's shops will enjoy the cup benefits
But it was felt the Millennium Stadium was easily accessible as well as providing a neutral venue for whichever teams reached the finals.

There is no question of the roof being shut during the games played there, although it could be used to protect the pitch beforehand.

The 475m project to rebuild Wembley is due to take three years, and the Welsh Rugby Union will be keen to keep the prestigious event in Cardiff for the whole of that period.

'A great coup for Wales'

The news that the final was coming to Cardiff has been welcomed by business and civic leaders.

Jenny Randerson, Welsh minister for culture, sport and the Welsh language, said: "This is terrific news for Cardiff and for Wales, and I am particularly proud that my constituency will be hosting both these prestige events for the next three years.

"Despite earlier scepticism from some quarters, I am very pleased that the Assembly is providing financial support for these events and has thereby helped to ensure that they have been secured for Wales," she added.

Cardiff's Lord Mayor Russell Goodway said it was "another great coup for Wales".

He said it demonstrated again the success of the initiative by the council and the Welsh Rugby Union in 1995 to secure a Lottery landmark project for Wales.

"I congratulate all concerned in securing this contract and hope everyone in Wales will get together to maximise the benefits from the planned programme of events," he said.

Cardiff Lord Mayor Russell Goodway:
Cardiff Lord Mayor Russell Goodway: "A coup."
The director of the Celtic Manor Resort hotel near Newport, Robert Church, said the decision was "great news". The complex is currently hoping to host another major event, the Ryder Cup.

"High profile events like major rugby matches, The Wales Open and now the FA Cup bring people to the area and act as a showcase for Wales," he said.

"They clearly help the tourism industry in general as well as directly benefiting businesses such as ours.

"A successful Ryder Cup bid would be another win-win, bringing nearly a decade of international exposure and economic benefits."

Economic benefits

Cardiff Chamber of Commerce chief executive Helen Conway described the FA Cup coming to Cardiff as "excellent news for the local economy".

"The economic value and opportunities generated by the world seeing Wales in such a positive light will be immense," she added.

A major survey assessing the economic impact of the Rugby World Cup showed that for every 1 of public money spent on the tournament 17 was added to the Welsh economy.

In total Wales raked in 80m from the event, although the majority of that was spent in the immediate Cardiff area, the report said.

Following confirmation that the FA Cup was coming to Cardiff, Railtrack said it would reschedule engineering works planned for the Severn Tunnel that weekend.

The 24m works were planned 18 months ago and would have disrupted fans travelling to Wales by train.

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See also:

04 Jan 01 | Wales
FA Cup heads for Cardiff
25 Oct 00 | Business
Wembley costs 'escalate'
08 Jul 00 | Wales
FA Cup for the Millennium
20 Jul 00 | Wales
Tourism must 'reinvent itself'
15 Jul 00 | Wales
Stadium shoppers warning
05 Jun 00 | Wales
Wales richer after World Cup
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