FIFA's birthday celebrations have today, Thursday, 20 May 2004, got underway in celebratory fashion in its birthplace, Paris, as FIFA President Joseph. S Blatter opened the 54th Ordinary FIFA Congress in the presence of French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, French Minister of Sport Jean-François Lamour, Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, Swiss Federal President Joseph Deiss, IOC President Dr Jacques Rogge, and numerous guests and delegates from FIFA's member associations.

Click here to see the photos of the ceremony

The highlights of the ceremony in the Carrousel du Louvre, attended by 1,500 people, included the presentation of awards to persons and institutions that have given football extraordinary service over the last 100 years and strived to develop and promote the game. FIFA presented one Centennial Order of Merit for each of its decades (full list of recipients on following page).

Prior to the presentation of these awards, French Prime Minister Raffarin welcomed those present from all around the world on behalf of the French Government. In his address, Raffarin underlined the close, emotional ties that bind FIFA, France and Paris and praised FIFA's commitment to solidarity.

FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter also stressed the historic nature of this year's Congress: "It is a wonderful honour for me to open the FIFA Centennial Congress. But I also have a great responsibility - to my predecessors, who made FIFA what it is today - as well as to the new FIFA Statutes, which stipulate that FIFA must hold a Congress each year, in line with the principles of democracy and transparency."

Blatter also paid tribute to France and its representatives: "Robert Guerin, as FIFA's first President, did so much to ensure that FIFA even exists, and Jules Rimet could claim to be the "inventor" of the FIFA World CupTM. Even if he hadn't shown such vision and persistence, we may have still been here today," said Blatter. "But we probably would have not been able to have such a wonderful celebration."

The Centennial Congress will continue tomorrow, Friday, 21 May - one hundred years to the day since the foundation of FIFA - with statutory Congress business on the day's agenda, including the ratification of the football association of New Caledonia as FIFA's 205th member.

FIFA Centennial Orders of Merit

FIFA Centennial Orders of Merit were presented to the following recipients:

Recipient

Category

Reason

Pelé and Franz Beckenbauer

Player and Football Personality

Pelé is the Player of the Century / Beckenbauer won the FIFA World CupTM as player and coach, now President of LOC for 2006 FIFA World CupTM

Jules Rimet / Uruguay 1930

FIFA World CupTM

“Inventor” of FIFA World CupTM / host nation of first FIFA World CupTM

International  Football Association Board

Laws of the Game

Custodians of the Game – modern but reassuringly consistent

Real Madrid CF / Sheffield FC

Clubs

Real Madrid was one of FIFA’s founder members / Sheffield FC is the oldest club in the world

Dr João Havelange

FIFA Management

Led FIFA into the modern era

International Olympic Committee

Other Sporting Organisations

Olympic Football Tournaments

African Football

Development

Produced countless gifted footballers

Adidas / Coca-Cola Company

Economic Partners

Partners and promoters of football

Fans of Korea and Japan

Fans

In the name of all football fans

AIPS / Television

Media / Television

Link between football and the public