The National Football League - America's most popular sports attraction - has been selected by the city of Beijing to stage a game in the Chinese capital city that will serve as the kickoff of the one-year countdown to the opening of the XXIX Olympic Games in China.
NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL announced Sunday night that the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks will play in the first NFL game in China -- the world's fastest growing market -- when the teams meet in Beijing on Wednesday, August 8, 2007.
Also taking part in the press conference prior to the Denver at New England game were Patriots Chairman & CEO ROBERT KRAFT, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics Chairman DICK EBERSOL, and MISS REN JUN, who represented the Beijing Sports Competition Management Center.
"We are very excited and proud to be bringing our game to China," said Commissioner Goodell. "We thank the Patriots and Seahawks for agreeing to take part in this historic game. We are also grateful to our broadcast partner -- NBC and its parent company GE -- and to the Beijing Municipal Sports Bureau and the Beijing Sports Competition Management Center. This promises to be a memorable event."
The game will be televised live in China in primetime by China Central Television (CCTV) at 8:30 PM. CCTV is China's largest national TV network. NBC will carry the game live in the United States at 8:30 AM ET.
With a capacity of 60,000, Beijing's Workers Stadium - site of the soccer competition at the 2008 Summer Olympics - will play host to the matchup between the Patriots and Seahawks, two of the NFL's most exciting teams.
The Seahawks played in last season's Super Bowl after winning their first National Football Conference championship. Seattle is one of the top contenders to represent the NFC again at Super Bowl XLI, which will be played on February 4 in South Florida. Led by reigning Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player SHAUN ALEXANDER and quarterback MATT HASSELBECK, Seattle is aiming for a third consecutive NFC West championship under head coach MIKE HOLMGREN.
Seattle previously participated in the NFL's international American Bowl games in Vancouver, Canada and Tokyo, Japan. In their first international game since 1998 (Vancouver), the Seahawks will seek their first victory outside the United States.
"The Seahawks are honored to be one of the teams selected to represent the NFL in this prestigious event," said Seattle Chairman PAUL ALLEN. "We are proud of the Pacific Northwest's deep cultural and business ties to China. We look forward to developing relationships surrounding this game that will have a lasting impact and will serve as a legacy of our participation in this historic event."
Led by head coach BILL BELICHICK and quarterback TOM BRADY, New England has enjoyed unparalleled success in recent years, capturing three NFL championships in four seasons from 2001-04, by winning Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX .
The Patriots have taken part in two international games since the American Bowl series of preseason games was instituted in 1986. They played in Montreal, Canada in 1990 and in Mexico City, Mexico in 1998. The trip to China will be the team's first game outside of North America.
"My family has been doing business in China for nearly 20 years and we are proud that The Kraft Group is New England's number one exporter to China," said the Patriots' Kraft. "Based on our own experiences in China and the growing interest in American sports there, we launched a Patriots website in Chinese in 2004. It was the first of its kind. It is a privilege and an honor to be selected to participate in the NFL's inaugural China Bowl in 2007. I think our players and staff will be terrific ambassadors for the game of football and I hope that it will be an experience that they will never forget. I look forward to developing new relationships and building a legacy for the Patriots and the NFL in such a great country."
Fans in China will be familiar with the Patriots and Seahawks. CCTV is broadcasting the NFL's schedule of Sunday Night Football games live in China throughout the 2006 season, culminating with an on-site telecast of Super Bowl XLI. Seattle and New England each will appear on Sunday night at least twice this year.
The game in China will mark the 42nd international contest for the NFL in the American Bowl era. There have been 40 international preseason games and one regular-season NFL game since 1986. The regular-season game took place last year in Mexico City, where a record crowd of 103,467 in Azteca Stadium watched the Arizona Cardinals top the San Francisco 49ers 31-14.