Russia wins bid to host 2018 World Cup
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Russia has won the bid to hold the 2018 World Cup, the Fifa executive committee has voted in Zurich. Qatar will host 2022 tournament, becoming the first Middle East country to do so, Fifa president Sepp Blatter announced.
Russia has proposed staging the World Cup in 13 cities grouped into four clusters stretching from the exclave of Kaliningrad on the borders of the European Union to the Urals on the fringe of Siberia.
It beat off competition from England, the Netherlands/Belgium and Portugal/Spain.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was on his way Thursday to Zurich. He called the decision "a sign of trust" in his country, Interfax reported.
England put in some intense lobbying in the final days before the vote. Football superstar David Beckham and Prince William flew in for some last-minute schmoozing up to Fifa officials.
"Fifa's decision shows it is intent on forging into new countries which haven't hosted the World Cup before," RFI's sports editor Paul Myers said.
"After South Africa, the World Cup is going to Russia despite strong bids from England and Spain/Portugal," Myers added.
Putin was expected at the ceremony but did not appear and instead alluded to England’s courting of Fifa officials.
"They are being smeared in dirt and compromised. ... I interpret this as [a method of] unfair competition," he said in nationally-televised remarks.
In a move to win over Fifa officials, the Russian president has promised to scrap visas for nationals of almost all countries outside Russia, an often expensive and time-consuming process.
"It will be interesting to see how Russia will overcome its problems of racist chanting in the stadiums," Myers said.
Qatar's win came despite serious reservations being raised about the problems of staging the football tournament in the Gulf during the heat of the summer months.
"We won't let you down," Qatar 2022 bid president Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Thani promised. "You will be proud of us, proud of the Middle East."
The Gulf state beat off stiff competition from Australia, the United States, South Korea and Japan.
"It will be fascinating, from a logistical point of view, to see the World Cup in Qatar, which has temperatures above 50 degrees and will have air-conditioned stadiums," Myers said.
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