World Cup viewing parties in Dupont Circle may return this summer

Soccer in the Circle, 2010 (Washington Post photo)
Soccer in the Circle, 2010 (Washington Post photo)

On this wintry Washington day, we dream of warm, sunny days in Dupont Circle watching World Cup matches on big screens amid a tapestry of cultures, nationalities and rooting interests.

The folks who brought alfresco viewing to the city’s vibrant circle four years ago are seeking to do it again this summer.

Dupont Festival, a non-profit group, has applied to FIFA and the National Park Service for permission to organize large-scale viewing of the tournament from Brazil. ESPN and ABC, the U.S. English-language TV rights holders, would also have to approve the request.

Aaron DeNu, the festival’s principal organizer, said he is aiming to host at least one all-day watch party, on a Sunday (June 22), culminating with the United States vs. Portugal at 5 p.m. He is also looking into other possible dates, including the July 13 final.

“I have every reason to believe we will be in the park this summer,” said DeNu, 34, a former player at Wilmington College in Ohio whose full-time job is associate director for technology, outreach and events at George Washington University. “Our goal is to get one day locked up and then we’ll go from there.”

He has spoken to D.C. United about partnering on the project and received positive feedback from businesses that have sponsored other art and cultural events in the park. He plans to reach out to embassies of the countries also playing on June 22 (Belgium vs. Russia and South Korea vs. Algeria).

Four years ago, when the group arranged a one-day watch party that included a U.S.-England match, the expense was about $20,000. Since then, Dupont Festival has put on more than three dozen events, from Cinema in the Circle to Groundhog Day parties.

“In four years, we have learned a lot about events in the park,” said DeNu, who, in 2006 while pursuing a master of arts degree at Fordham, helped organize smaller watch parties in the Bronx during the German-hosted World Cup. “We’ve come a long way.”

In 2010, organizers scrambled up to a week before the tournament began to secure permission, funding and equipment for Soccer in the Circle. Fans turned out by the hundreds, transforming Dupont into a neighborhood version of the popular fanfests sponsored by FIFA in the host country and in major cities around the globe. The games shown in Washington appeared on a pair of 25-foot screens. DeNu plans to use big screens again for the primary event this year, but if he adds other dates, he might opt for banks of flat-screen TVs.

“It’s about bringing people of different backgrounds and areas to a public park near the White House to watch the world’s biggest sporting event,” he said. “We had a lot of success last time and we would love to do it again.”

Here’s what it looked like in 2010:

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.
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Steven Goff | January 19