Russia, Qatar Awarded 2018, 2022 FIFA World Cup Tourneys

Russia has won the bitter fight to win the right to stage the 2018 FIFA World Cup, while Qatar will host the 2022 event. The announcement was made earlier today in Zurich by FIFA president Sepp Blatter, watched by representatives of the international football community and camera crews from approximately 70 TV stations.

The Russian bid emerged as the last minute favourite, even though the country’s premier, Vladimir Putin, did not make the journey to Switzerland for the announcement. England had pulled out the big guns to back its claim, with presentations by Prime Minister David Cameron, Prince William and David Beckham.

There were fears among the English contingent that a BBC documentary transmitted on Monday about corruption among FIFA officials regarding the awarding of World Cup venue status would scupper the English bid but this was downplayed by the organisers. Whatever the impact of the programme, England’s case was not helped by other bidders making comments about high crime rates in London and the English taste for binge drinking.

The other bids in contention for 2018 were joint submissions from Spain and Portugal and the Netherlands and Belgium. Australia, Korea Republic, USA and Japan were also bidding for the 2022 World Cup, which went to Qatar, making it the first Middle Eastern country that will stage the event.

Both Russia and Qatar won through despite their technical bids reportedly being marked down by the judging panel. Vladimir Putin will now travel to Zurich to thank FIFA for its decision, which he said was a “sign of trust” in his country.

Russia has pledged to build 14 new stadia from scratch for the 2018 World Cup Finals at a total cost of $6 billion. Work on six of these has already begun and Putin has personally guaranteed that all venues will be finished on time.

The announcement is a heartbreaking one for the U.S, which hoped to secure it’s first World Cup since 1994 and only its second in history. ESPN EVP of Content John Skipper was on the board of directors for the USA Bid Committee and played a significant role in the U.S. bid. His network holds the U.S. rights to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and is expected to be a major player in the bid for the 2018 and 2022 rights.

“As a member of the Board of Directors for the USA Bid Committee, I’m very proud of the quality of our bid and I believe the U.S. offered many advantages,” says Skipper. “At ESPN, we believe in soccer as a growth sport.  We believe the FIFA World Cup is an ascendant media property and we are looking forward to a fantastic World Cup in Brazil 2014.  We value our relationship with our partners at FIFA, and hope to continue that relationship for many years to come.”

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