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Two World Cup hosting races go down to wire
Capping three days of intense lobbying, British Prime Minister David Cameron was at the center of a smooth final presentation for England. It stood in sharp contrast with the overly long show of Spain-Portugal to sway the 22 FIFA voters for the 2018 tournament.
The winners will be announced later Thursday.
As much as the bids covered all corners of the globe, so different were the final presentations, with England’s bid standing out with a mix of princely and soccer royalty, from Prince William to David Beckham.
“I know that we can deliver extraordinary public occasions and celebrations,” Prince William said.
“I certainly hope so as I’m planning quite a big one myself next year,” he said, referring to his upcoming marriage to Kate Middleton.
England’s final presentation was only a concluding half hour following years of intense lobbying. Spain-Portugal indirectly targeted England when it highlighted the corruption allegations against FIFA officials that surfaced in the British media over the past month.
Spain-Portugal’s presentation ran well over time and often seemed awkward. Although the bid has kept a near invisible profile, centering on behind-the-scenes lobbying only, it still kept Spain-Portugal as England’s main challenger.
Meeting a key demand of FIFA, the leaders of Belgium and the Netherlands gave guarantees of full cooperation if their joint bid wins. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the two governments “can fulfill all of FIFA’s needs and at the same time host a wonderful tournament.”
In a FIFA assessment of the bid two weeks ago, the organization complained that the necessary government support was still lacking. As an underdog with little to lose, the Belgium-Netherlands presentation was far from conventional.
It mixed footage of old interviews with updated voice-overs _ a quirky trick making it seem that the joint bid has been destined to win since Cruyff’s heyday as a player in the 1970s.
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
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