The Women's Olympic Football Tournament Draw in Beijing on Sunday tossed up a series of interesting clashes. China were grouped with Sweden and Canada, who knocked them out in the quarter-finals of the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2003, while defending champions USA have been drawn with 2000 Olympic champions Norway, alongside Asia's emerging powers Japan and New Zealand. Two-time world champions Germany will not have it easy, either, with Korea DPR and Brazil set to test them.
With the memory of the FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007 still fresh in mind, the forthcoming Women's Olympic football tournament will provide the host nation with another chance to showcase their pedigree in organisation and hospitality. The official draw, unsurprisingly, drew extensive attention and interest from at home and broad, with around 200 media representatives flocking to Beijing's Regent Hotel, the venue for the draw.
The ceremony marked a grand meeting of footballing celebrities from across the world, with the FIFA delegation and representatives of the participating teams present. Those gracing the occasion included FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, Chinese Minister of the General Administration of Sport Liu Peng, FIFA vice-president Chung Mong-joon, BOCOG's Executive Vice-President Yang Shu'an, FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke and Chinese Football Association vice-president and general secretary Xie Ya Long.
A traditional drum-dance performed by a group of female artists kick-started the ceremony, before Dr. Mong Joon Chung gave the opening speech. He expresed belief that the Olympic football tournament, Asia's first since Seoul 1988, will be a great one when it returns to the country where football originated. "Six billion people across the world are eagerly awaiting the Olympics," he said. "We believe the tournament will be a great one when football returns to its birthplace."
Taking the stage next was Mr. Liu Peng, who extended the hosts' warmth and hospitality to his guests from across the globe. "Congratulations to all the 28 teams for qualifying for this event", he said. "This Olympic football tournament marks the 100-year anniversary of football becoming a part of the Olympics and we believe we will stage a great event this time."
A speech by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter followed. He thanked the hosts for their efforts and expects the tournament to be one of the most successful ever. "We thank the hosts for their hospitality and reception", he said. "We believe the tournament in August will witness the commitment of the people not only in Beijing, but throughout the five venue cities."
FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke conducted the draws as the fans looked on in earnest to see whom their respective teams would be grouped with. Providing assistance during the process were a selected group representing the Chinese footballing fraternity, with Nian Weisi and Wang Junsheng, both former bosses of Chinese Football Association, leading the likes of Ma Yuanan, Shen Xiangfu, Gao Hongbo and Liu Ailing, the former star of the Chinese women's team.
The ceremony ended as it began, with an artistic performance which was characterised by the country's traditional culture. The closing dancing show was named 'Dream of DunHuang', a place renowned for linking the ancient China to the rest of the world for the world-famous Silk Road. With this the hosts showed the watching world their promise of hosting a great Olympic football tournament as well as their warm welcome to all those who will be present at the world's showpiece in August.