Voting for the 2018 World Cup

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MEI profiles the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup contenders that will be voted on in Zurich on 2 December 2010 in this two–part feature by MEI's editorial director, Rachael Church–Sanders. Here in part one, we look at the 2018 bids.

England 2018"Oh to be in England, now that the World Cup is here", the poet Robert Browning may have declared if he were alive today. But he isn't, and instead the bid is benefiting from the combined florid outpourings of former England players David Beckham, David Seaman and Bryan Robson among many other ambassadors (around 70 at the last count which is more than enough to go around). Even music mogul and X Factor host Simon Cowell has recently pitched in with his support, no doubt aiming to show FIFA that bringing the event to England would ensure it would be 'down with the kids'. And if that wasn't heady enough, Paul the Octopus' final act before he passed away was to support England 2018 after shooting to fame during the South Africa World Cup with his accurate soothsaying. Celebrities and mystic sea creatures aside, the England bid is certainly a strong one, and by virtue of having some of the most famous venues in the world (although not necessarily the largest), it is certainly considered among both bookmakers and people in the know to be a hot favourite. They say money talks in sport and the fact the bid team is promising FIFA a sizable profit can only assist its lofty ambitions through assurances that such an event wouldn't cripple the economy. Throw in lots of admirable plans for legacy (England 2018 estimates that its combined legacy programmes would reach 1bn people globally by the end of that World Cup year) and this particular bid team has got to be feeling confident. Meeting FIFA President Sepp Blatter in mid–October 2010, London Mayor Boris Johnson pledged: "In England, winning the bid could create more than four million extra young players, 100, 000 coaches, an international centre for disability football and a chance for every schoolgirl to sample the sport. We can show that football really has the power to transform lives. " However, FIFA may consider that England has more than enough football fans already and shun the country in favour of a less–established market that has room for real transformation. Recent attempts by the British media to discredit the bid will also not help matters. Holland/Belgium 2018Hoping to show FIFA that good things come in small packages and that they will not just be making up the numbers when the all–important vote is taken on 2 December, EURO 2000 hosts Holland/Belgium have once again reunited to show the world they can put on a good football show, despite FIFA's well–known preference for a single country host. Focusing on a better, greener, healthier, happier and more sustainable world, the Benelux nations are keen to show FIFA that a vote for them would be a vote for a long–lasting environmentally–friendly legacy in the region. In the bid's favour is the fact that the compactness of the tournament venues will dramatically reduce the need for transport during the event. Officials, teams, players and vast numbers of supporters would be offered easy access to all venues in very little time making use of sustainable and collective means of transport. Indeed, two million free bicycles will be provided free to fans (but possibly not officials and players) during the tournament to reduce the emission of green house gases. Under the slogan 'Together for Great Goals', Holland/Belgium guarantees a World Cup with an environmental impact that is 50% lower than previous events. According the to bidding team: "We have created a unique World Cup Ecological Footprint–a new method to measure the ecological impact of a major football event. "Despite boasting several fine venues, at present the Benelux bid does not have an 80, 000 capacity stadium to host the final. However, the city council of Rotterdam gave permission in March 2009 for development of a new stadium with such capacity to be completed if the bid were to be successful. And with the bid having its own 'Sustainable Stadium Toolkit', it can be certain that such a new stadium would satisfy the most ardent of eco–warriors. Russia 2018When it comes to reaching out to a new market and finding new devotees for the church of football, FIFA cannot fail to be excited by what is on offer from Russia. The country has both considerable wealth and a large population–both of which are going to be attractive to the FIFA Executive Committee. Indeed, at the time of writing, Russia was second favourite to host the 2018 event among bookmakers, closely snapping on England's heels. Already scheduled to host the Winter Olympics at Sochi in 2014, the European giant is looking to repeat the success on the football field. Ambitious stadium plans endorsed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, including a 69, 500–seat stadium with a moveable roof and retractable pitch currently under construction in St Petersburg, are a bold move that may just pay off, showing that legacy is firmly at the centre of Russia's bid and that the country aims to ramp up the popularity of the beautiful game. Ahead of the final FIFA vote, Russia has been keen to explore the historic elements of its bid, claiming that as an emerging football power it has a right to host the tournament for the first time. Winning the World Cup is a national priority for the government, while the friendly, welcoming nature of the Russian people is also portrayed as a major boon. As Alexey Sorokin, CEO of the bid, said: "Russia opens up a historic choice to FIFA as it represents a host country from the former Soviet bloc to inspire Eastern Europe. It also gives the opportunity to place the FIFA World Cup in a country blending the best of Europe and Asia, offering fans a compelling, exciting host country that is known for its traditional hospitality. "Spain/Portugal 2018Have you heard the story about the tortoise and the hare? The Spain/Portugal bid team would probably be the first to admit that they were slow starters in the race to secure the World Cup, but like the dependable and steady tortoise in the famous Aesop fable, the Spain/Portugal bid has ambled along nicely and some might say, its 'Jogo bonito' tortoise has now even overtaken, in this case, not just one hare, but a whole field of them. 'Pure football' is certainly a term that can be used to describe the Iberian Peninsula. If the World Cup were to be awarded on football expertise alone, then a bid comprising both the winner of EURO 2008 and the 2010 World Cup (Spain) and organiser of EURO 2004 (Portugal) would surely deserve the prize. Miguel @ngel Lãpez, managing director of the bid, certainly thinks so, electing to bring Spain's winning World Cup trophy on stage with him at a major London–based football event in October. Definitely more effective than a glass of water. "Hosting the World Cup will be the culmination of a 28 year journey–we will use it to inspire, motivate and promote positive long term benefits for sport and society, in Iberia and all over the world, " Lãpez proclaimed. The Spain/Portugal bid certainly ticks the right boxes in terms of enviable climate, excellent accommodation, transportation and competition–ready venues that already wash their faces financially, but FIFA will need to be convinced that a joint bid between two countries that have been likened to (at times) estranged siblings, is the best route to take. In this regard, a show of unity will be key. And if Spain/Portugal can secure the votes of its cultural cousins in the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), then it may have a very good chance of bagging this one in extra time.

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