IOC vows to examine any evidence of corruption after member is accused of accepting bribes in television documentary.
|Putin’s speech in 2007 was crucial in securing the 2014 Winter Olympics for Russia [GALLO/GETTY]|
One hundred and forty four days after Andres Iniesta scored to win the World Cup for Spain – and cap a month of triumph for South Africa, the host nation – 22 men in suits will decide the destination of sport’s biggest tournament in 2018 and 2022.
Thursday’s vote by the executive committee of Fifa, football’s world governing body, will spark huge cash investment by the successful nations, and bring them under intense scrutiny as the world watches to see if they can stand up to the challenge.
Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, has pointed out that the decision process is less than scientific. Which is why the question, “Who do you think will win it?”, is so difficult to answer.
Twenty two men, all with varying levels of clout within football, will vote in a secret ballot on Thursday.
“To try and second-guess Fifa is a difficult thing,” Al Jazeera’s correspondent Andy Richardson said in Zurich on Wednesday.
“The people involved are so unpredictable.
“But they seem to be trying to send the World Cup to places of football potential rather than (those with) the infrastructure.”
The five countries bidding to host the World Cup in 2022 will give their final presentations at Fifa headquarters in Zurich on Wednesday, with the 2018 bids presenting their cases just ahead of Thursday’s vote.
The executive committee, which usually has 24 members, has been reduced to 22 after Reynald Temarii of Tahiti and Amos Adamu of Nigeria were suspended over allegations they had offered to sell their votes to undercover newspaper reporters.
Here we have a look at each of the bids.
The last time England hosted a World Cup, in 1966, they won it. This time, they will be hoping an own-goal hasn’t been scored by a British documentary accusing Fifa executive members of corruption.
Bid ambassador David Beckham, the former England captain, said on Wednesday that Fifa’s “football men” would not be affected by the Panorama allegations.
England has the transport infrastructure, stadiums, fans and image to host a successful tournament. But whether their bid is popular enough among Fifa members remains to be seen.
Has never hosted the tournament before, which fits with Fifa’s preference for new territories following the success of Africa’s first World Cup in 2010.
It has a vast budget and the backing of the government, although prime minister Vladimir Putin, who was instrumental in landing the Winter Olympics for 2014, says he will not be present for the vote in Switzerland.
Fifa president Blatter has demonstrated warmth for Russia’s bid, and they could take advantage of any ill-feeling towards England, but the absence of Putin is a big blow.
These rivals on the football field are preaching unity off it, and could be helped by the fact that Spain are the reigning world and European champions.
|Iniesta scores the winning goal against Netherlands at Johannesburg’s Soccer City in July [EPA]|
Spain and Portugal boast an excellent climate, famous stadiums, and the support of Latin American countries.
But Fifa’s dislike of joint bids could count against them.
The joint bid by the two Low Countries nations has flown under the media radar, but the Belgians and Dutch hope that their relative obscurity can be a positive factor.
“Fifa need an example to show the world joint-bids have a future,” said bid president Ruud Gullit, one of the great names in Dutch football.
“In 2030, Argentina and Uruguay want to organise it together and they need Holland and Belgium to show them it is possible.”
Geographic position seems to be the biggest problem facing the Australians, with matches kicking off at times when much of football’s world TV audience will be asleep – particularly in Europe.
The suspension of Temarii is also a blow, with the Oceania region chief having said he would vote for Australia.
Vast experience of hosting major sporting events may not be enough to get them over the finish line, especially as football ranks somewhere below cricket, the two rugby codes and Aussie rules football in terms of popularity.
Perhaps the most intriguing bid on offer, Qatar is promising air-conditioned and eco-friendly stadiums to combat 50C summer heat, and the chance to see more than one match per day due to the small size of the country.
With few of the stadiums or transport links yet built, Fifa could be taking a leap of faith in choosing Qatar.
But with billions in oil and gas revenue available to spend, the attraction of a first World Cup in the Middle East could tilt the scales in their favour.
South Korea 2022
Joint-hosted the World Cup with Japan in 2002, which could rule the Koreans out in the minds of many despite the success of that tournament.
South Korea has suggested a certain amount of co-hosting with North Korea, and is hoping a promise of peace can help sell its bid.
“We’re making the case that Korea needs to host the 2022 World Cup for peace beyond the Korean peninsula and in northeast Asia,” Fifa vice president Chung Mong-joon said on Tuesday.
The sport is getting bigger in the United States, but still lags behind baseball, basketball and American football. But with excellent facilities from school level upwards, the country has the potential to be a world-beater.
After hosting a successful tournament in 1994, the US has proven infrastructure and can promise big revenues.
The bid also has the support of two presidents – incumbent Barack Obama, and Democrat predecessor Bill Clinton.
Also hampered by the joint hosting with South Korea in 2002, Japan is hoping that the positives from that tournament outweigh the fact that it is so recent in the memory.
Bid chiefs feel their presentation was not very well received by Fifa, and a sentiment that it’s time for someone else to have their turn may prove to be the crucial one.