Super Bowl billboards light up Caesars Palace ahead of Sunday's NFL Championship game in Las Vegas
Las Vegas (AFP) - The biggest party in American sport is about to get even bigger on Sunday when Las Vegas hosts the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs in what promises to be a Super Bowl blockbuster for the ages.
The first-ever NFL championship finale to be staged in the glittering Nevada gambling metropolis was always going to be a money-spinning bonanza.
But the budding romance between pop superstar Taylor Swift and the Chiefs’ charismatic Travis Kelce virtually guarantees this year’s showpiece has already hit the jackpot.
The Swift-Kelce phenomenon has sent NFL viewing figures skyrocketing, and there is every chance Sunday’s spectacular will eclipse the record 115.1 million who tuned in to watch last year’s Super Bowl, when the Chiefs defeated the Philadelphia Eagles.
Swift is expected to jet to ‘Sin City’ immediately after performing in Tokyo on Saturday night to cheer on her beau Kelce.
The singer will be among a crowd of celebrities, VIPs and high-rollers packed into the 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium to see if Kelce and the Chiefs can clinch a third Super Bowl crown in five seasons.
Las Vegas – once shunned by the NFL but now an increasingly important US sporting hub – has been crackling with anticipation in the final days before Sunday’s big game.
The Federal Aviation Administration estimates around 500 private jets will touch down in Las Vegas for the game, while city officials say they expect an influx of more than 300,000 visitors over the Super Bowl weekend.
The horde of tourists will flock to casinos, nightclubs and celebrity-hosted watch parties being laid on in addition to Las Vegas’ regular array of concerts featuring stars such as U2, Adele, Christina Aguilera and Green Day.
Those lucky enough to have secured a ticket for Sunday’s game, which includes a half-time show by R&B star Usher, will have paid handsomely for the privilege.
The cheapest seats available on ticketing website Stubhub weigh in at a hefty $5,542; the most expensive an eye-watering $56,700.
The American Gaming Association, meanwhile, expects a record 67.8 million Americans – around a quarter of the country’s adult population – to place a bet on the Super Bowl, generating an estimated $23.1 billion.
- Chiefs chasing dynasty -
The Vince Lombardi Trophy on display ahead of Sunday's Super Bowl between Kansas City and San Francisco
In the neon-lit maelstrom of partying and revelry, it has been almost easy to overlook the fact that in the middle of it all is a sporting contest, which in itself has all the ingredients of a classic.
The Chiefs are playing in their fourth Super Bowl in five seasons, hoping to cement their dynasty status with a third Vince Lombardi Trophy after wins in 2020 and 2023.
Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes will join Tom Brady, Terry Bradshaw and Troy Aikman as the only quarterbacks to win three or more Super Bowls if the Chiefs are victorious.
The franchise would also be the first team since Brady’s New England Patriots in 2003 and 2004 to win back-to-back Super Bowls – an achievement that Kelce is determined to match.
“That tier of teams who have won it (back-to-back) have gone down as some of the greats,” Kelce said this week.
“I’ve wanted this more than I’ve ever wanted to win a Super Bowl in my life.”
Sunday’s game is also a repeat of the 2020 Super Bowl, when Mahomes led a stirring fourth-quarter comeback with unanswered points to beat San Francisco 31-20.
The 49ers, meanwhile, are chasing a sixth Super Bowl and their first since 1994-1995.
The 49ers emerged from the regular season with the best record in the NFC but survived nerve-shredding playoff games against the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions to book their ticket to Las Vegas.
Lining up against Mahomes for San Francisco will be quarterback Brock Purdy, playing only his second season in the league after being chosen by the 49ers with the last pick of the 2022 NFL Draft.
San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan, meanwhile, is aiming to end his long wait to finally get his hands on the Vince Lombardi Trophy in his third Super Bowl.
As well as the loss to Kansas City in 2020, Shanahan was the offensive coordinator when the Atlanta Falcons blew a 28-3 lead in the 2017 Super Bowl before losing to New England.
“I’ve been able to coach in two Super Bowls and both of them are heartbreaking,” Shanahan said. “Those things last a while. But it’s all about getting back there again, and that’s what I’m excited for today.”