Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bid Countries Get FIFA Advice in Zurich

Even more information on 2018 and 2022 ... eight-plus months ahead of South Africa 2010. Not to mention four-plus years ahead of Brazil 2014.

All 11 bid teams are in Zurich so that FIFA can remind them today how to better prepare in their pursuit of the 2018 or 2022 World Cups.

Conversation about those events isn't as remote as it sounds because FIFA will choose hosts for 2018 and 2022 in a December meeting next year. That is, 16 months hence. So it is getting fairly late for the would-be hosts.

The World Cup has become such a big business that FIFA can summon the bidders almost like servants to sit and listen to what, exactly, FIFA expects of them. Even bidders as sophisticated and experienced in putting on big soccer events as England, Japan, Russia and the United States.

What does FIFA demand of its hosts?

Let's see ...

--World-class stadiums, with at least one stadium of 80,000 capacity for the opening and closing matches.

--First-class hotels, and lots of them.

--Easily accessed transportation.

--Modern communications technology.

--Environmental awareness.

--Corporate and social responsibility.

And we could be cynical and suggest it wouldn't hurt to massage the egos and perhaps fatten the wallets of the FIFA electorate, but these things are on the up and up, I'm sure. (Wink wink nudge nudge.)

To recap, bidders for both 2018 and 2022 include Australia, England, Japan, Mexico, Russia and the United States, plus joint bids from Belgium-Netherlands and Spain-Portugal. Indonesia, Qatar and South Korea have applied only for the 2022 finals.

The thinking is that England is the favorite for the 2018 World Cup; the "masters of the game" have hosted only one World Cup, and that was in 1966. After that, FIFA probably will want to go to North America, which hasn't hosted since 1994, which might put the U.S. in good stead.

Anyway, yes, the way bidders are at the beck and call of FIFA shows just how much value bidders now attach to hosting a World Cup. They will jump through hoops.

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