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SUPERDOME THEN AND NOW

Sunday - 2/3/2013, 5:32pm  ET

Women walk near a fence with logos promoting Super Bowl XLVII, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, in New Orleans, La., near the Superdome, where San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Raves will play for the NFL football tile. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The Associated Press

AP national sports columnist Tim Dahlberg was in the Superdome ago after Hurricane Katrina nearly eight years ago. He shares his thoughts as the arena hosts the NFL title game:

I wanted to go see Tom Benson's suite, but it was occupied. One of the benefits of owning the New Orleans Saints is a suite at this Super Bowl.

I had been there before, just after the Superdome was emptied of refugees from Hurricane Katrina. It was dark and the stench was almost unbearable, with the liquor all gone and the toilet filled and overflowing.

A few of New Orleans' finest who had ridden out the storm in the dome with about 25,000 people gave me a tour, guided by flashlight. There were holes in the roof, litter everywhere, and a smell of human misery that was almost indescribable.

They told me of bodies lying in the stench, of a man who jumped to his death from one of the upper levels rather than endure the ongoing misery.

Parts of New Orleans have been rebuilt in the wake of the 2005 storm that wreaked such havoc. The Superdome itself was repaired, at a cost of hundreds of millions.

In the dome on Sunday the stage is set for America's biggest sporting event. There's not a lot of ambiance in the dome because, well, it is a dome, but some 70,000 people will sit in air conditioned comfort with food and drink only a few steps away.

Benson's suite, I'm sure, is even more lavish than it once was.

My guess is they refilled the liquor cabinet, too.

-- Tim Dahlberg -- http://twitter.com/timdahlberg

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EDITOR'S NOTE -- "Super Bowl Watch" shows you the Super Bowl and the events surrounding the game through the eyes of Associated Press journalists across New Orleans and around the world. Follow them on Twitter where available with the handles listed after each item.


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