2018 World Cup bidders woo Asia delegates
Countries vying to host the 2018 World Cup tried to woo key Asian votes on Wednesday, with England pledging a spectacular tournament, while Belgium and the Netherlands are promising an environmentally friendly one.
Geoff Thompson, a FIFA vice president, led England's bid team in a 30-minute presentation to the Asian Football Confederation in Kuala Lumpur. The joint-bid team from Belgium-Netherlands also spoke to the AFC's executive committee.
The 2018 contest also features bids from Russia and another joint effort from Spain-Portugal. The hosts will be decided in a secret-ballot vote by FIFA's executive committee at its Zurich headquarters on Dec. 2.
Thompson pointed out that a FIFA evaluation of bids published earlier this month scored England favorably in the rankings for operational risks. It drew ''medium'' risks in just two of 17 categories, which included stadiums, transit, team facilities and legal guarantees from governments and host cities.
''We are fortunate to have this great platform to build on,'' Thompson said. ''If we are given the honor, then we will welcome the whole world in the most spectacular fashion.''
Jeremy Hunt, England's secretary of state for culture, media, Olympics and sport, added that the 2012 Olympics in London would serve as a ''warm-up'' to hosting the World Cup.
Michael van Praag, president of the Dutch Football Association, said if the Netherlands and Belgium win the bid, two million bikes will be made available for free to enable fans to travel easily.
''Both of our countries are small in size so the distances between the hosting cities is also short. This will help us in reducing the (carbon) footprint'' on the environment, he said.
Key officials who attended the presentation included AFC president Mohammed Bin Hammam of Qatar, FIFA vice president Chung Mong-joon from South Korea, and FIFA executive committee members Junji Ogura of Japan and Worawi Makudi of Thailand.
Their votes could be critical in deciding the 2018 host, while Qatar, South Korea and Japan will engage in lobbying of their own as they compete to host the 2022 event, along with Australia and the United States.
The 2022 host will also be chosen on Dec. 2.