Spain and Portugal 2018 - Lengthy and uninspiring
Spain and Portugal, the joint bid that has long been the favourite to host the 2018 World Cup, made its final presentation to Fifa Executive Committee members in Zurich on Wednesday, hours before the final vote.
Led off by master of ceremonies Pedro Mourinho – in the apparent absence of his more famous managerial namesake – the presentation immediately struck a business-like chord.
“Spain offers to host a World Cup that will guarantee sporting, social and economic success"
The presentation highlighted to Fifa the “borderless geographical reality” that a Spain-Portugal joint bids would provide, countering the long-held view of senior Fifa executives that joint bids are not welcomed. Portuguese prime minister Jose Socrates reminded the ExCo of the successes of his country’s staging of Euro 2004. He emphasised that, thanks to that tournament, stadium infrastructure costs for the Portuguese element of a 2018 World Cup would be limited. Portugal’s prime minister going first was also perhaps designed to remind voters that it this is not simply a Spanish bid, as has often been portrayed in the international media.
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spain’s president, was the next speaker on stage. Speaking, like Socrates, in his native tongue he emphasised Spain’s existing transport and hotel infrastructure, guaranteeing that all Fifa’s requirements would be met.
The importance of the presence of the two heads of state cannot be underestimated – political heavyweights are likely to have swung the vote later today as a result of days of glad-handing in Zurich hotels – but it made for a dry start to the presentation. Some would say it was too dry, especially as it immediately followed Holland and Belgium’s relentlessly fun presentation.
A chirpy video, however, did follow - full of agreeable shots of Spanish and Portuguese culture, architecture and people, backed by a suitably dramatic soundtrack. The video was certainly stylishly produced but it did little to evoke emotion. “Coming to Portugal and Spain is like feeling at home” summed up our presenter, Mourinho, as he returned to the stage. “Spain offers to host a World Cup that will guarantee sporting, social and economic success,” he added.
The fourth speaker was Miguel Angel Lopez, the managing director of the Iberian bid. Madail, again speaking in Spanish, highlighted the cities and stadiums across Spain and Portugal that “live football” and were chosen for their “territorial balance”. Using simple presentation slides – hardly the kind of technological approach that, for instance, Japan has pushed in its 2022 bid – Madail promised a Fifa headquarters in Madrid for the tournament and a ticket sales target of 3.7 million.
Those kind of details only served to emphasise that this was not so much a presentation of what Spain and Portugal would do with a World Cup, but a business seminar for the Executive Committee. The next few hours will determine whether the serious strategy will pay off.
A second video followed outlining more details of the cities that would stage the tournament. Again, it could be described as solidly professional but not inspirational. The video made a brief mention of Spain and Portugal’s “exemplary” fan behaviour, a subtle dig perhaps at the English bid.
The deputy president of the Iberian bid, Gilbert Madail was the fourth speaker; his words and demeanour were as uninspiring as the previous two. It is worth noting, however, that each speaker received a warm reception from the assembled Fifa ExCo members. Madail said: “We can produce the best World Cup ever. We have the know-how.”
The final speaker was the most significant. Miguel Angel Villar Llona, the Spanish ExCo member who has been almost entirely responsible for assembling the votes that are likely to see the bid reach the latter stages of voting. Villar Llona wields significant power in Fifa’s corridors of power – so much so that he ran several minutes over time, after describing Fifa as a victim of slander from the media. Astonishingly, now nine minutes over time a further, more emotive, video followed.
If the Spain-Portugal bid is successful later today the feeling may well be that victory was secured in spite of its final presentation. That theory is based on the examples of London and Rio de Janeiro securing Olympic Games on the back of impressive and emotional final-day pitches in recent years. Fifa, however, is a very different organisation to the International Olympic Committee, with far fewer voting members. With that in mind the Spanish presentation might in fact just have been exactly what was required.blog comments powered by Disqus
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