✦ Travel writer Susie Boswell explores some accommodation options in three cities hosting the biggest women’s sporting event worldwide, now on its ninth occasion for the first time in the southern hemisphere – slogan: “Beyond Greatness”.
On the last weekend of June, Sydney Harbour Bridge was closed throughout Sunday morning as thousands of revellers danced their way across the span. The rare closure of the landmark for the celebration underlined the prestige of the impending 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, hosted in Australia and New Zealand and kicking off simultaneously in both Sydney and Auckland on Thursday, July 20.
A total of 64 matches among the participating 32 nations are being staged across the following 32 days at 10 venues in Sydney (Accor Stadium Australia and Sydney Football Stadium), Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth and in New Zealand in Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton and Dunedin, leading up to the final at Accor Stadium on Sunday August 20.
In the Sydney opening the Matildas meet the Republic of Ireland and at Eden Park it’s New Zealand versus Norway. The United States, the inaugural Cup winners, are defending champions from the tournaments in both 2015 (in Canada) and 2019 (in France).
Brisbane, meanwhile, took part in kicking off the preliminary excitement with receipt of the original trophy into Australia on June 28, after its 120,00km journey around each of the participating countries. It’s passed the trophy on to the other States before crossing the ditch to end its grand promotional journey in Wellington six days out from the start of the international tournament.
In the Group Stage alone Brisbane matches will feature the Matildas and teams from the powerhouse footballing nations of England, France, Germany and Brazil. The river city will also see a round of 16 knockout and a quarter final before hosting the bumper third-place play-off on Saturday 19 August.
The excitement is heightened for North Coast NSW fans with the opportunity of expanding their choice of flying to an east coast FIFA venue from Sydney and Brisbane now also to take in Melbourne, thanks to the new twice-weekly Bonza service between Tullamarine and Port Macquarie. Better book early!
Regional fans can now choose to fly direct with Bonza to matches in Melbourne, as well as to the usual destinations of Sydney and Brisbane.
Booking accommodation as soon as possible, too, is also essential, as the capital cities report reservations overflowing with visiting international squads and supporters. One group, StayWell hotels, is offering special World Cup rates through July and August across their city-based locations of Park Regis City Centre (Sydney), Park Regis Griffin Suites (Melbourne) and Park Regis North Quay (Brisbane), near to stadia hosting the games.
Hotel websites will inform guests on matches and locations; guests will receive an itinerary with match schedule and tips on pre-game venues such as restaurants and bars; hotel reception areas will be themed, with staff in supporter merchandise to boost the sporting atmosphere.
As an example of rates, I searched a dummy booking at Melbourne’s Park Regis Griffin Suites, three nights Friday 4 August to Monday 7 August, and found a king Studio for two adults for around $142 a night, a total of $445 inclusive of tax and service charges. The airconditioned room features 42-inch TV, kitchenette with fridge and microwave. Check individual hotel websites for information and bookings via www.staywellgroup.com
Booking accommodation as early as possible is vital, with overseas visitor reservations in host cities already at a peak.
Meanwhile, all nine host cities will be holding FIFA Fan Festivals - free events for those not travelling to the grounds. Sydney’s, for example, is at Darling Harbour’s Tumbalong Park. Every game will be shown on giant screens along with big-name music acts, festival street food and bars and a merch shop including jerseys and the official WWC ball.
At the “Playground”, fans can compete with friends and others: shoot past a speedometer, play football snooker or a three-hole game of football mini-golf, enjoy penalty practice or a full game on the festival’s pop-up pitch.
An on-site FIFA Museum traces the epic history of the competition and its greatest ever players through film, interactive displays and team profiles, and a display of artefacts, including the trophy itself. For younger fans, there’s a jersey colouring-in competition.
Visit fifa.com for all tournament information including Fan Festivals across Australia and NZ.
For further Sydney-specific info and Festival operating dates: https://www.sydney.com/events/fifa-womens-world-cup-2023/fifa-fan-festival. Sydney match schedule: https://www.sydney.com/events/fifa-womens-world-cup-2023
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