2018 World Cup countdown
Ah well, you can't win 'em all. Someone had to lose. Dismay is sweeping through the Iberian peninsula with the announcement that Russia has clinched the right to host the 2018 football World Cup.
The decision by the executive committee of FIFA in a secret ballot in Zurich this afternoon will come as a big disappointment too in England, Holland and Belgium.
The Portugal/Spain bid was well-thought out and highly professional but it apparently lacked the appeal that Russia brought to bear.
Spain, of course, was the senior partner in the Iberian bid, but Portugal's experience in hosting Euro 2004 would have brought added expertise to the mega-event in 2018.
Together the two nations were able to highlight the fact that they have a vast amount of necessary infrastructure already in place, plus great experience in handing large numbers of visitors. “We could organise a World Cup next month if necessary,” Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said in Zurich this morning.
It wasn't enough. Russia are the victors.
The FIFA executives had plenty of time prior to this week to study the rival bids, but here's how the day of decision unfolded.....
The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing arn't a patch on this. Portugal and Spain have put in a joint bid to hold the football World Cup in 2018, but they are up against formidable opposition: Russia, England and Holland/Belgium. A 22-member panel of FIFA executives will make their decision in Zurich this afternoon. Everyone says it's too close to call. Yesterday, Russia seemed to be the favourites. Portugal/Spain are said to be "quietly confident". England have a strong bid too. As David Beckham has so aptly put it, the winning goal is sometimes scored in the final minutes of a game. This morning, each of the contenders, startring with Holland and Belgium, makes a final 30-minute presentation.
9.0am - Portugal and Spain prepare to start their final presentation. One of their strongest points is that in times of austerity they have much of the necessary infrastructure already in place. For example, between them they have 21 top stadiums.
9.40am - Portugal/Spain conclude their strong final presentation. If they or any of the other contenders do not get sufficient initial votes, it may go to a second round of voting.
10.05am - England presentation starts. The big guns in the England delegation include David Cameron, Prince William, David Beckham and Sir Bobby Charlton. It is thought unlikely that England or any of the other contenders will get the magic figure of 12 votes in the first ballot. If not the lowest scorer will be out and it will go to a second round.
10. 38am - England's 30-minute presentation, kicked off by Prince William, was very slick indeed. David Cameron and David Beckham were outstanding. You have to say, too, that much of the presentation was delivered with the sort of emotion and passion one normally associates with Latins.
11.0am – Russia's bid started slowly but has steadily gained momentum over the past two years. Despite Prime Minister Putin's decision not to show up in Zurich, many regard Russia as the most likely winners today. Their final presentation is about to start.
11.45am - The four presentations are now over. The Netherlands and Belgium were first off this morning but their assertion that “small is beautiful” is unlikely to sway the 22-member FIFA panel. It was a lively and entertaining presentation compared with that from Portugal and Spain. Led by President José Luis Rodrigues Zapatero, the Iberian presentation noted that the peninsula has 50 modern airports, is used to annually handling 70 million visitors and can boast 300 days of sunshine a year. England's was a much brighter and more polished performance, full of glitzy characters. Russia put on a competent show and tried to woo the judges by emphasising that Russia is entering a new era of openness to the world. Many would say that England won this final phase of the competition, but Russia and Portugal/Spain are certainly not out of it.
The nation to be given the opportunity of hosting the 2018 World Cup will be named at about 3.0pm.