A ceremony extolling universal values
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The opening ceremony of the 63rd FIFA Congress took place on Thursday at the Swami Vivekananda International Convention Centre (SVICC) in Port Louis, with the FIFA President and the Prime Minister of Mauritius among those attending.

The event put the accent firmly on tolerance and universal values, which are reflected in the lyrics of the song that Linzy Bacbotte has composed especially for the occasion: “Let’s share love and live in unity / We are here to celebrate the world / Let’s sing for freedom and the sun that brings a smile to our faces.”

Under the watchful eye of ceremony compère Carol Tshabalala, the Congress opened with a speech by FIFA President Joseph President S. Blatter, who said: “Our Congress is our annual opportunity for all of us, all members of our great organisation, to meet. To work, of course, and take important decisions for the future of FIFA.

"But also to exchange, to update each other, to enjoy being together, to socialise. In short, to share the same passion we all have for the world’s most popular sport as a community.

"Mauritius symbolizes a key part of what FIFA stands for: developing the game, especially for the youth, and, through the sport, helping the youth enjoy a healthy life and providing them with a range of life-skills that they will use long into adulthood too."

Taking his turn to address the audience, the Prime Minister of Mauritius, Navin Ramgoolam, said: “In the next two days, Mauritius will be the centre stage. Major issues such as hooliganism, racism, match fixing will be debated here, and I hope we will help steer back the FIFA boat in clearer waters."

Then, as the FIFA hymn sounded, it was time for the 209 member associations to be announced and for their respective flags to be carried into the auditorium. Carrying out that task were 450 disadvantaged children from across the island of Mauritius.

Following an eyecatching display by a dancing troupe and Russia’s former world acrobatic gymnastics champion Dima Shine, now an artiste with the Cirque du Soleil, the singer Linzy Bacbotte took to the stage with her band to perform the song she wrote for the Congress.

The colourful spectacle continued when Russian juggler Victor Moiseev showed off his amazing manual dexterity in an exciting routine.

Next, the president of the Mauritian Football Association and the head of the country’s postal service stepped up to present the FIFA President with a commemorative stamp printed especially for the FIFA Congress. Gratefully accepting the stamp, Blatter said: "It's a wonderful legacy, and it's called a 'Blue Mauritius', just like the FIFA blue!"

The penultimate act of the ceremony was a remarkable routine performed by tap dancers and percussionists beating out a rhythm on footballs, with the Zambian singer Lindiwe Bungane and Co wrapping up the event with a rendition of R Kelly's hit, The World’s Greatest

The Congress itself takes place on Friday and will be followed by a press conference. The day’s events will be streamed live at FIFA.com, with coverage starting at 9:30 local time (7:30 CET).