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Celebrations mark the opening of FIFA Centennial Congress in Paris, FIFA’s birthplace

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 Cup™ as player and coach, now President of LOC for 2006 FIFA World Cup™
Jules Rimet / Uruguay 1930 FIFA World Cup™ “Inventor” of FIFA World Cup™ / host nation of first FIFA World Cup™
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