Byline: Chris Blackhurst
ONE of the most elating, unifying moments this nation has experienced in recent years was winning the bid for the 2012 Olympic Games. The announcement, when it came, was truly special and uplifting. I remember the shock. London! Apart from the 1966 World Cup, now consigned to grainy black-and-white footage, we had held nothing of note for years. Now this. Few people, apart from those directly involved in the bid, gave us much of a chance. We didn't win things. Competitions went to pushier, sometimes slicker, places.
Fast-forward to 2009 and the bid to hold the 2018 World Cup in England. This contest is one that we ought to be favourite to land. We could accommodate the competition tomorrow if we needed to. We could guarantee know- ledgable, passionate crowds. We know how to deal with potential violence -- as we've proved with many matches involving foreign teams and Euro 96, which went off without a hitch. And we've got history on our side -- we gave the world the laws of the game in 1863.
The 2014 World Cup is to take place in Brazil, so the feeling is that having gone to South America, it will be Europe's turn. Compared with the two other leading contenders, we are streets ahead. Spain hosted the World Cup more recently than we last did, in 1982. Russia simply lacks the existing infrastructure to accommodate the vast circus of teams and their entourages, press and supporters that constitutes a modern World Cup.
We should be out in front, quietly garnering votes from other national associations, putting to rest whatever doubts they may have. Yet our effort is in danger of imploding. Instead of harmony, the team that has been assembled to push England's case is being blown apart by lack of leadership, petty rivalries, vested interests and political interference.
This week the chairman of the Premier League, Sir David Richards, resigned from the 2018 board, effectively declaring he had no confidence in its boss, the Football Association's chairman, Lord Triesman. Richards's departure came just a week before the 2018 team flies to South Africa to badger FIFA delegates assembled there for the 2010 World Cup draw. David Beckham has been drafted in to front what is intended to be a highprofile lobbying operation.
Today, as part of the 2018 process, the 15 cities in England that would like to hold matches are making their presentations at Wembley. One of them is London. While the capital is already guaranteed the final, at Wembley, it is also pitching to be one of the 10 chosen to host the other games, along with the likes of Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle. London should be in the vanguard. In addition to Wembley, it has a world-class football ground in the Emirates. Another when Tottenham's new White Hart Lane is completed. And there's the 2012 Olympic stadium, if it does not shrink in size. London has the hotels and its transport network can cope. We know how to deal with large crowds and this, whatever the others may claim, is where they want to come -- whether they are teams, FIFA officials, the media or fans. …