The future of football as an Olympic sport remains to be decided - but the current Sydney 2000 Olympic Football Tournaments have been a great success so far, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter told a press conference in Sydney on Thursday.
"We've seen some excellent matches in both the men's and the women's tournaments," said Blatter. "As far as the men's competition is concerned, the rule on players under 23 has shown that players at this age have all the talent necessary, they are physically extremely well prepared, and the coaches have shown tactical expertise.
"The fact that the last eight teams come from five different continents - I'm sorry to say that only Oceania, represented by our hosts Australia, didn't make it - also shows the levelling-out of football power around the world."
The FIFA President pointed out that the goal average per match is substantially higher than four years ago in the men's tournament - 3.21 compared with 2.33 - but lower in the women's tournament (2.75 compared with 3.33). With 652,000 spectators so far, this year's crowds are about 100,000 fewer than the 1996 figures at the same stage, but the stadiums this time are generally smaller than four years ago. All this weekend's men's quarter-finals are sold out, as is the men's Final in the main Olympic Stadium with its 110,000 capacity.
"SOCOG has done a wonderful job of organising these Games," added the FIFA President, "and FIFA is happy to be able to help carry the spirit of Sydney to the other four Australian cities where football is being played."
He reiterated that FIFA's anti-doping policy in these games is exactly in line with that of the International Olympic Committee, with dope tests after every match - all of which have proved negative so far.
Asked about the future status of football in the Olympics, Blatter said this would be studied in detail by the FIFA Strategic Studies Committee after Sydney, and subsequently also taken up by the Executive. "We shall have to wait and see," he said. "But we have to say that there are various reasons that make it not possible for FIFA to agree to have the Olympic Football Tournaments completely open. But we would certainly be in favour of trying to find a simple, consistent policy.
"I also feel that football - and other international federations - should receive a greater share of the Olympic revenue, so that this may be shared among the competing associations."