As we all know, the London Olympics are just days away. The hype and build-up to this event has been fixed to our screens and across the sporting spectrum of this country.
Yesterday (Monday, March 19) it was announced that on July 14, the Olympic Torch will be making its way to Southampton’s St. Mary’s Stadium during the Markus Liebherr Memorial Cup day. The news comes after The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) announced it would be coming to the ground during its whistle-stop tour of the UK, which begins in Lands End on May 18th.
The flame will take centre stage as thousands of Southampton residents will observe the lap of honour around the St Mary’s pitch between 6:20pm and 6:23pm. Saints fans, amongst others, will be able to enjoy a great day of football plus see the club go down in the history books as part of the London 2012 celebrations.
The Markus Liebherr Memorial Cup is a unique competition involving three teams. The teams will play three round-robin 45-minute matches. If any match ends in a draw, then it is decided by a penalty shoot-out with points awarded fairly to reward competitive play. As normal, three points will be awarded for a victory during regular play, with no points going to the loser. However, if the match is decided by penalties, then the winner is awarded 2 points and the loser 1.
Last season, the mini-tournament consisted of Saints, Werder Bremen and Athletic Bilbao. The La Liga side picked up the trophy after a stunning display on the hallowed St Mary’s turf, and since went ont to beat Manchester United home and away in the Europa League.
Speaking to the Saints website, Nicola Cortese, Executive Chairman of Southampton Football Club spoke of his delight at the Olympic Torch coming to the stadium: “It is a fantastic honour for Saints to be hosting the Olympic Torch as it passes through the iconic St Mary’s Stadium, and ensures that Southampton Football Club will have a place in Olympic history for years to come.”
Many Saints fans flocked to fans forums and expressed their delight at the Olympic Torch heading to their “home of football.” One fan laid the accolades on the club’s chairman for such an honourable occasion coming St. Mary’s: ”I just love Nicola Cortese more and more, every time he does something like this. A great marketing coup to get the club associated with the world’s biggest sporting festival,” he said.
With fans delighted by the news, I for one think this is a marketing “thumbs-up” for the Saints. It will attract many fans to the stadium not only to see a moment in Olympic history, but to remember former owner Markus Liebherr, a man who saved our football club three years ago but tragically passed away in August 2010.