NEW ORLEANS — Brass bands marching among spectators and a live alligator and trainer were among the sights on the grounds immediately surrounding the Superdome on Super Bowl Sunday.
New Orleans has long been a popular Super Bowl host, but with Sunday’s NFL title game being the first in the city in 11 years – and the first since Hurricane Katrina – officials took numerous measures to showcase the local culture in hopes that fans, and the league, would want to come back.
“The NFL and the host committee went to great lengths to give the Super Bowl a Louisiana and New Orleans flair,” said Jay Cicero, president of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation.
Tickets to the game between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers were scanned at security tents set up around the stadium. It allowed much of a secure 52-acre area around the Superdome to be set up like an outdoor festival.
Ravens and 49ers’ fans danced in front of a stage set up in an expansive public plaza next to the stadium while the Grammy winning Rebirth Brass Band played. Next on stage was the New Orleans Super Bowl Gospel Choir, comprised of small choirs from area churches.
“It’s beautiful that we can represent more than one genre of music, so you get brass bands, you get jazz, all of these different things. So it just really gives the culture of New Orleans,” choir leader George Young said.
‘GREATEST’ OK: Muhammad Ali’s daughter knocked down rumors of her father being near death Sunday, saying he was at home watching the Super Bowl.
May May Ali says she talked to her father Sunday morning on the phone and he was fine. She says he was watching the Super Bowl at home in Arizona, wearing a Baltimore Ravens jersey.
“He’s fine, in fact he was talking well this morning,” she said in a telephone interview. “These rumors pop up every once in a while but there’s nothing to them.”
The rumors were started by a report in a British tabloid quoting Ali’s brother, Rahman, as saying the former heavyweight champion was near death.
SUPER HANDOFF: New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said it was only fitting that a Super Bowl in New Orleans, which has doubled as a celebration of how far southeast Louisiana has come since Hurricane Katrina, would be followed by one in the New York metro area, where communities are working to rebound from Superstorm Sandy.
The mayor spoke at a “handoff ceremony” involving officials connected to the 2013 and 2014 Super Bowls.
Joining Landrieu were New Orleans Super Bowl host committee chair people James Carville and Mary Matalin, along with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Saints executive Rita Benson Leblanc, granddaughter of Saints owner Tom Benson.