FIFA World Cup races go down to wire
The races to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup events have gone to the wire Thursday, with no candidate emerging to secure the vote of the FIFA executive committee in Zurich, Switzerland.
Capping three days of intense lobbying, British Prime Minister David Cameron was at the centre of a smooth final presentation for England. It stood in sharp contrast with the overly long show of Spain-Portugal to sway the 22 FIFA voters for the 2018 tournament.
Russia was already hurt by the no-show of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and it seemed unlikely the quirky, fun presentation of Belgium-Netherlands could do much to change their status as outsider.
The five bidders for 2022, Qatar, the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea, made their presentations on Wednesday.
The winners will be announced later Thursday (CBCSports.ca, 9:30 a.m. ET).
The bids covered all corners of the globe, but the final presentations differed dramatically, with England's bid standing out with a mix of princely and soccer royalty, from Prince William to David Beckham.
"I know that we can deliver extraordinary public occasions and celebrations," Prince William said.
"I certainly hope so as I'm planning quite a big one myself next year," he said, referring to his upcoming marriage to Kate Middleton.
'FIFA is a clean institution': bid head
England's final presentation was only a concluding half-hour following years of intense lobbying.
Spain-Portugal indirectly targeted England when it highlighted the corruption allegations against FIFA officials that surfaced in the British media over the past month.
"FIFA is a clean institution. FIFA works honestly," Spain-Portugal bid president Angel Maria Villar said. "You are all honest, hard-working people."
Spain-Portugal's presentation ran well over time and often seemed awkward. Although the bid has kept a near-invisible profile, centring on behind-the-scenes lobbying only, it kept Spain-Portugal as England's main challenger.
Meeting a key demand of FIFA, the leaders of Belgium and the Netherlands gave guarantees of full co-operation if their joint bid wins. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the two governments "can fulfil all of FIFA's needs and at the same time host a wonderful tournament."
In a FIFA assessment of the bid two weeks ago, the organization complained that the necessary government support was still lacking. As an underdog with little to lose, the Belgium-Netherlands presentation was far from conventional.
It mixed footage of old interviews with updated voice-overs — a quirky trick making it seem that the joint bid has been destined to win since Cruyff's heyday as a player in the 1970s.