Cape Town — Although the 2010 World Cup is still six months away, Cape Town has hosted the first formal gathering of the candidates for two World Cups almost a decade away.
Ten countries bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup put forward their candidacy in brief presentations, beginning the intense, competitive and expensive process of bidding.
David Beckham and Fabio Capello pushed their candidacy of favourites England but several other countries also brought out heavyweight ambassadors to extol the virtues of their cause.
Ruud Gullit, the former European Footballer of the Year, is driving the joint bid by the Dutch and Belgians while Luis Figo, recently retired from Inter Milan, was a spokesman for the Portuguese and Spanish bid.
Australia, Russia, Japan and the United States are also in the race while South Korea, Qatar and Indonesia are bidding for 2022 only.
The Americans are highly fancied and many observers see Australia as a strong outsider, particularly given the success of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Co-hosting bids are usually frowned upon by FIFA but Figo says Spain and Portugal complement each other and make their respective cases stronger.
“We have both hosted tournaments on our own but we feel together we have a stronger case,” the recently-retired Portugal captain said.
FIFA made a surprise decision two years ago to launch the bidding process for two World Cups at the same time, arguing that countries need much more time to prepare because of the growing infrastructure demands around World Cups.
It is also because of the long term TV contracts that FIFA now sign with international broadcasters.
The decision on the hosts for 2018 and 2022 will be made in December 2010.
The 2014 World Cup up in Brazil is the last to be played under FIFA’s policy of rotating the tournament among the continents.
It was on that basis that South Africa won the right to host the 2010 finals, which start in June.