Houston plans weeklong Super Bowl celebration

Updated: October 18, 2003, 7:56 AM ET

HOUSTON -- Houston city officials are planning a weeklong Super Bowl celebration that will kick off with an Olympic-style opening event at Reliant Arena with some the city's greatest sports legends in attendance.

The event, Super Bowl XXXVIII: A Houston Salute, will be held Jan. 26, 2004 to welcome the Super Bowl to Houston for the first time since 1974.

The activities following the opening night ceremony will lead up the NFL's championship game on Feb. 1, 2004, at Reliant Stadium.

CBS sport anchor Jim Nantz, a University of Houston graduate, came up with the idea and has been working on the details with former President Bush, the event's chairman.

"Our goal is to showcase Houston not only to the great fans who have supported its great sports stars throughout the years, but to make a powerful, loud statement to the NFL that we have rallied the best and brightest of Houston to welcome the NFL and say how pleased we are to have this great sports event in our city," Nantz said.

A panel of local experts have selected Houston's greatest athletes from various sports to raise the Super Bowl Flag that will fly outside the stadium during the week before the game. Bush, NFL officials and representatives from the competing teams in Super Bowl XXXVIII will join the athletes.

The event will include a dinner and a gathering that's open to the public. Proceeds will go to the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee's Youth Education Town Center, an after-school recreation/education center for underprivileged and at-risk youth.

Nantz began working on the idea about three years ago after Houston was awarded the 2004 Super Bowl. He said the idea took shape after he attended the University of Houston's athletic Hall of Honor dinner last year.

"I saw Carl Lewis and Clyde Drexler and Steve Elkington and Billy Ray Brown, and I tried to imagine what could happen if you could rally many of Houston's sports stars on one night - men and women from different sports and different generations - and have them come together to pay tribute to the NFL and the Super Bowl," he said Saturday's edition of the Houston Chronicle.

The opening ceremony will be a first for the Super Bowl because the NFL has never staged one for the game. However, the league has staged special events for the opening week of the NFL season the last two years in New York and Washington, D.C.

"So why not have an opening event for the Super Bowl?" Nantz said. "As a veteran of three Olympic Games, remembering the majesty of the Opening Ceremony, this will be our version of that event."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index