OSAKA, July 19 – Hot on the heels of the World Cup in South Africa, FIFA kicked off a whirlwind two-month tour Monday to inspect nine candidates vying to host the 2018 or 2022 tournaments, the first stop in Japan.A five-member team from the sport’s world governing body was to arrive in the western megacity of Osaka at 0820 GMT on a four-day trip to see stadiums, facilities and presentations there and in Tokyo.
They will go on to South Korea, Australia, the Netherlands-Belgium (joint bid), Russia, England, Spain-Portugal, the United States and Qatar in that order and draw up reports on the feasibility of each bid.
FIFA’s 24 executives will choose the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts on December 2 in Zurich.
Immediately after arrival, the team, led by Chilean Football Federation president Harold Mayne-Nicholls, was to inspect by helicopter the site in Osaka for an 83,000-seat stadium which would host the opening match and final.
The structure, tentatively named Osaka Ecology Stadium, will be built on a former railway yard by the city’s central station.
The inspectors included FIFA event management chief Juergen Mueller and marketing head David Fowler.
Japan is counting on its organisational, financial and technological clout to win the 2022 event. It co-hosted the 2002 World Cup with South Korea after staging one summer and two winter Olympics.
In its bid book submitted to FIFA in May, Japan promised to treat football fans worldwide to ultra-realistic live three-dimensional broadcasts of matches.
Under the six-billion-dollar "Universal Fan Fest" project, matches would be viewed by 360 million people at nearly 400 select stadiums in FIFA’s 208 member countries.
Japan, South Korea, Australia and Qatar — all members of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) — have submitted bids for 2022 only, while the others are seeking to host either 2018 or 2022.
If Europe gets 2018, the continent will be excluded from the 2022 race.
Japan had originally sought to host either 2018 or 2022. But in May it abandoned its 2018 bid to focus on 2022 after learning Europe has a strong chance of hosting the World Cup after Brazil 2014.
AFC president Mohamed Bin Hammam last month expressed his support for Europe’s 2018 bid and underlined his determination to see an Asian country win 2022.
Dates of FIFA inspections visits
Japan: July 19 to 22
South Korea: July 22 to 25
Australia: July 26 to 29
The Netherlands and Belgium: August 9 to 12
Russia: August 16 to 19
England: August 23 to 26
Spain and Portugal: August 30 to September 2
United States: September 6 to 9
Qatar: September 13 to 17