The world in Zurich

Dignitaries and VIPs from sports, politics and society gathered in Zürich for two days of presentations in the Home of FIFA on Wednesday 1 and Thursday 2 December for the announcement of the host countries of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup.

On Wednesday, the five candidates launched two days’ worth of hosting presentations at the Home of FIFA in Zurich. Australia’s bid team was headed by Governor-General Her Excellency Quentin Bryce, and supported by model Elle Macpherson. Korea Republic were next on the running order with a team including Prime Minister Hwang Sik Kim and international midfield star Park Ji-Sung.

The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, was the next head of state to lay out his country’s hosting credentials, with the support of seasoned strategist and five-time FIFA World Cup coach Bora Milutinovic as an ambassador. The USA pitch featured former President Bill Clinton and Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman, as well as national player Landon Donovan on stage, before the final presentation of the day from Japan, with a delegation headed by bid committee president Junji Ogura.

On Thursday, the Netherlands and Belgium presentation was headed by Netherlands prime minister Mark Rutte and Belgium Prime Minister Yves Laterme, and featured contributions from former footballing greats Ruud Gullit, Johan Cruyff, Jean-Marie Pfaff and Guus Hiddink. The England team included Prince William, Prime Minister David Cameron and David Beckham, while Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, opera singer Anna Netrebko and renowned international Andrey Arshavin flew the flag for Russia. Spain and Portugal were represented by the likes of Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates, Spain Government president Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero as well as Real Madrid superstar Iker Casillas.

After considering its verdict, the FIFA Executive Committee voted on the choice of host nation for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup finals. On Thursday, in a dramatic final act at Zurich Exhibition Centre, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter opened the sealed envelope containing the identity of the winners, and drew out the cards bearing the names Russia and** **Qatar, sparking an outbreak of joy and elation among the two victorious delegations.