Darling Harbour will host thousands of fans in central Sydney when the Socceroos take on Argentina on Sunday, the New South Wales premier has announced.
Dominic Perrottet on Thursday named Tumbalong Park as the big screen viewing site after his first suggestion, the Sydney Opera House, was unavailable.
The Opera House sails will, however, be lit up in green and gold from 8pm on Saturday until dawn Sunday.
A large screen at Tumbalong Park will show the lead-up and match from 5.30am on Sunday. The event itself will be alcohol-free with nearby retailers encouraged to open early and licensed venues operating with extended trading hours.
Transport will be free across Sydney from 4am to midday.
Perrottet promised on Thursday morning to set up an “awesome” live viewing site following jubilant scenes of fans in Melbourne’s Federation Square celebrating the team’s win over Denmark on Thursday morning.
He said the government was looking at “the best” spots for the upcoming match against Argentina to take place on Sunday at 6am AEDT.
Speaking at a press conference in North Sydney, Perrottet said while the venue was yet to be confirmed, it would be the best site in the country and he flagged the Sydney Opera House as the “key location”.
“We’re going to have a great live site,” he said. “It’s going to be the best in the country because this is the best city in the world, so it’s going to be awesome.”
But a spokesperson for the Opera House subsequently said the forecourt was already booked for its December season.
When asked why Sydney did not yet have a site and hadn’t had one in place for the first three qualifier games, the premier said: “I don’t know.”
“But what I can say is what’s important is that we’ve made the round of 16,” he said.
“It’s a phenomenal result for Australian soccer, the inspiration that will provide young boys and girls right across NSW is going to be phenomenal and I want everybody in the city and across the state to come out and enjoy the game and we’ll be doing everything we can to do that.”
A government spokesperson later said an announcement on the site would be forthcoming.
A spokesperson for the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney said the Domain was unavailable due to a planned event on Saturday evening.
NSW pubs and clubs were able to stay open until 5am to screen the Denmark game in Sydney, but although hundreds took to the CBD’s George Street in an impromptu celebration, no formal public site was established for fans to watch the match.
The NSW opposition leader, Chris Minns, questioned why Sydney was not prepared with a major live viewing site like Melbourne’s Federation Square and called for the government to act immediately.
Thousands of diehard fans descended on the CBD site from late Wednesday evening in full green and gold to cheer on the Socceroos.
“We should have had an opportunity to come together to watch this game together,” Minns said before the Darling Harbour venue was announced. “There are many opportunities to have a live site in Sydney, whether it’s Martin Place or somewhere else in the communal spaces in the CBD.”
He also flagged western Sydney where “many [fans] are located”.
A string of Sydney councils announced their own plans on Thursday.
The city of Canterbury-Bankstown opened Beaman and Playford Park to the public for the Socceroos v Tunisia match last Saturday and the mayor, Khal Asfour, said they would do so again on Sunday.
The Inner West mayor, Darcy Byrne, also confirmed his council would hold a live broadcast of Sunday morning’s match on a big screen at Enmore Park, while Liverpool city council said it would screen the match from Macquarie Mall in its CBD.
The Liverpool mayor, Ned Mannoun, said the mall was set to become the “Federation Square of Sydney”. “Here in Liverpool we come from many different countries, but when it comes to soccer, we are all Australian,” he said.
The NSW minister for cities, Rob Stokes, said Australians would be “in loud voice” at Tumbalong Park.
“This is one of those rare moments in time where we can get together in the greatest city in the world to celebrate living in the greatest country in the world,” he said.
Other capital cities around the country have moved to established live hubs for fans after Australia’s shock 1-0 victory to Denmark.
Brisbane’s lord mayor, Adrian Schrinner, said the city council was “talking to the broadcaster” about showing the Socceroos’ last-16 match against Argentina live in King George Square and the Queen Street Mall.
Brisbane football fan James Price, who sits with “the Den” – the active supporters of the Brisbane Roar – at every match, said Brisbane had dabbled with live screenings of big football matches before without attracting much participation.
“But I think there’s just a different wave and generation of support now who are keen to do it,” he said.
“Everyone’s been watching what’s going on down in Melbourne and we’re keen to have something similar here in Brisbane. I think this could be the perfect time to give this a go and show that Brisbane people are just as mad and keen as people in Melbourne.”
The South Australian premier, Peter Malinaukas, said a live site would be established at a plaza at the Adelaide Oval, complete with two large screens.
– Joe Hinchliffe contributed to this report