Cleveland preparing for national spotlight during presidential debate next week

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — With preparations for the first presidential debate underway at Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic’s Health Education Campus, the cohosts and city are preparing for the national spotlight.

As many as 100 million people are expected to watch the debate Tuesday, and Destination Cleveland’s Emily Lauer said that provides an opportunity.

“The opportunity relative to changing our narrative and changing perceptions of Cleveland,” Lauer said.

The debate won’t draw the crowds of the 2016 Republican National Convention, but it’s still expected to bring many media members to Cleveland.

While viewers will be focused on the debate stage, Lauer said Destination Cleveland will be focused on grabbing the attention of journalists to write Cleveland-related stories.

“It’s really the reporting around the event versus the actual debate, is our time to make Cleveland relevant,” Lauer said.

It’s a rare opportunity in a year when many other large events have been cancelled due to the pandemic.

The Mid-American Conference and NCAA basketball tournaments at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse were cancelled, as were more than 140 conventions and events that would have filled hotel rooms this year, according to Destination Cleveland.

“Particularly in this year when there hasn’t been a lot of travel and we’ve had hotel rooms that are ready to welcome people, it fills some hotel rooms,” Lauer said.

For Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic, the debate also provides a chance to show off their collaboration to educate medical, dental and nursing students.

“It really speaks to the level of cooperation across the organizations in Cleveland, the symbolism of what the health education campus is during this time of incredible challenge in healthcare,” said Cleveland Clinic Chief Clinical Transformation Officer Dr. James Merlino.

Detination Cleveland said the event will highlight Cleveland’s education and medical economy.

“The payoff of the national spotlight, being able to envelope ourselves into the national conversation, that’s priceless,” Case Western Reserve University Provost Ben Vinson said.

Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic stepped in to host after the University of Notre Dame backed out because of challenges related to COVID-19.

The debate will take place at 9 p.m. Tuesday.

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