57th FIFA Congress opens in Zurich
The 57th FIFA Congress opened today (Wednesday, 30 May 2007) with a ceremony at Zurich's Hallenstadion. World football's supreme body is meeting for the seventh time in Zurich, but this is the Swiss city's first ever elective Congress for the FIFA presidency.
Representatives of all 207 associations were joined at the colourful ceremony by officials from Montenegro, who are set to be admitted into membership tomorrow (Thursday), and by many observers and guests for addresses, awards, shows, a story about a golden magic football and short films from all six confederations that showcased the diversity of football's off-the-pitch activities.
In his speech, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter stressed that this year's Congress marked the end of an era, but also the start of a new one. "We can look back on a period that at the start was still affected by the crisis of 2002, but it was one that was brought to a successful conclusion," he said. "We are now standing at the start of the 2007 to 2010 period, which will also bring challenges with it."
"During the past thirty years, FIFA has channelled its energy into development in the game of football," continued Blatter. "At the same time, football's social responsibility has also evolved and, with adequate funds available now and in the future, FIFA can take another huge step forward by making a decisive contribution to the development of society through football - all in the spirit of solidarity and fair play."
IOC member Denis Oswald also greeted the Congress in the name of the Olympic movement and on behalf of IOC President Dr Jacques Rogge, who is currently in Africa. Oswald stressed that the IOC and FIFA were the perfect partners: "We share the same values, we have the same objectives. We bring people together. Through them and with them, we make the world a better place".
Rita Fuhrer, the President of the government of the canton of Zurich, welcomed the Congress attendees on behalf of the authorities: "The canton of Zurich is proud to be in the centre circle of a football pitch that spans the entire world". She also praised FIFA for its work in the Football for Hope programme and for how the governing body accepts its responsibility to society, particularly towards people "that society has already given up on".
The Swiss football association - one of FIFA's seven founding members - also welcomed the delegates with President Ralph Zloczower stressing the importance of football as "a leader in sport" and as "a crucial part of human culture".
Lennart Johansson (Sweden) and David Will (Scotland) were named as Honorary FIFA Vice-Presidents during an emotional ceremony that also saw the title of Honorary FIFA Member bestowed upon Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder (Germany) and Isaac Sasso Sasso (Costa Rica), although the latter was unfortunately unable to attend due to health reasons.
With the 2007 Congress, Zurich has now rejoined Paris at the top of the list of FIFA Congress venues. Paris, as the birthplace of FIFA, has always been a focal point, whereas FIFA's headquarters have been in Zurich since 1932. All seven of the city's congresses have taken place since 1980. For many decades, the FIFA Congress was held on a biennial basis, and then with extraordinary congresses held in between. Then, following the amendment of the FIFA Statutes in Doha in 2003, the Congress officially became an annual event due to the volume of issues that it is now required to deal with.