(WFI) Former Sydney Olympics Minister Michael Knight says Australia has all the right credentials to host a spectacular FIFA World Cup in 2022.

Knight, who is back in the spotlight for the 10th anniversary celebrations of the 2000 Olympics, claims the Games and subsequent international events have proved Australia’s capabilities.

“Whether we get World Cup football in 2022 or not won’t be decided on whether FIFA thinks Australia can do a job – we have crossed that threshold,” he told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph.

“Having seen what Australia did with the Olympics, the Paralympics and the World Cup Rugby, no international sporting federation would have any doubts Australia could host an outstanding event.

“There’s no question we could run it properly.”

Australia is vying to stage the 2022 World Cup but faces stiff competition from Japan, Qatar, South Korea and the USA.

Knight said Sydney and the country as a whole could deliver to FIFA expectations, citing Australians’ love of sport, multicultural make-up, the quality of volunteers, enthusiasm for celebration and a good climate as key strengths.

Knight served as Olympics Minister for five years before retiring from politics shortly after Sydney 2000 ended. He has not ruled out getting involved in organizing a World Cup in Australia if the bid is successful.

FIFA’s executive committee votes for the 2018 and 2022 hosts in Zurich on Dec. 2.

Mourinho meets FIFA inspectors in Madrid
Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho and players Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo sprinkled some star dust on the Spain-Portugal bid campaign during FIFA’s inspection tour on Tuesday.

They met with the FIFA delegation led by Harold Mayne-Nicholls at the club’s Valdebebas training facility, expressing their support for the bid. Emilio Butragueño, the former Spanish football legend and now a Real Madrid director, also spoke with the inspectors.

Mourinho highlighted the benefits of the training centre during a World Cup, saying the huge complex could easily accommodate three or four teams.

Spain sports minister Jaime Lissavetzky was quoted by Reuters as saying that if the joint bid was awarded the 2018 World Cup it would be “the perfect end to the year, in which the greatest collective feat in Spanish sport was achieved by winning the World Cup finals in South Africa”.

On a tour of the Spanish capital yesterday, FIFA delegates visited Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium, the proposed final venue in the bid book.

The inspection team also saw the site where a new congress centre will be built that would host the draw for the World Cup. Other venues on the city tour included the IFEMA convention complex that would house the international broadcast centre and El Retiro Park, a planned Fan Fest site at the World Cup.

Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, the Spanish home secretary, emphasised to FIFA delegates that “in security matters, the organisation of a World Cup in Spain and Portugal can be carried out with full guarantees”.

He also highlighted the “excellent sports infrastructures” offered by the Iberian bid, adding: “Spain and Portugal are safe countries, with a wide experience in the organisation of great events . We are able to organise a World Cup with full security”.

Spanish Football Federation president and bid leader Ángel María Villar

Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho met with FIFA inspectors on Tuesday (Getty)

accompanied FIFA inspectors around Madrid and travelled with them by high-speed train to Barcelona on Tuesday evening

Villar underlined the “hopes we have placed in the organisation of the World Cup 2018/2022. We have the support of all public institutions and we want to deliver an excellent service to world football”.

Today, FIFA inspectors will be taken on a tour of Barcelona, which includes a visit to the La Liga champions’ Camp Nou. The delegation moves on to Porto this afternoon with the four-day inspection tour wrapping up in Lisbon on Thursday.

Holland-Belgium highlights green bid credentials
Harry Been, CEO of the Holland-Belgium 2018 bid, says plans for the new 80,000-seat Feyenoord Stadium further emphasise how a FIFA World Cup in Belgium and Holland would be the greenest ever.

Research by Dutch energy giant Eneco has shown the new stadium could be Europe’s most environmentally-friendly stadium and the first energy-neutral stadium.

Eneco said the stadium, due to be built on the shores of the New Meuse river by 2017, would have almost 60% less CO2 emissions compared with existing modern stadiums in Europe including Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena. If wind energy can be produced in the surrounding area, the stadium could even become energy neutral.

Commenting on the research, Been said: “A FIFA World Cup in Belgium and Holland will be the greenest ever.

“In addition to the compact nature of our bid, which means minimum travel distances, sustainable stadiums such as the new Rotterdam stadium play an important part in making this happen.

“The Eneco research is in line with one of our seven Great Goals: ‘To provide a new vision for the construction of sustainable stadiums, with a positive effect in every way on their surroundings, including the clubs themselves, their supporters and the environment.’

“The new Rotterdam stadium could set the standard.”

Stadium director Jan van Merwijk said the new Feyenoord stadium will become one of the state-of–the-art stadiums in Europe.

“Not only will it have an important position with respect to capacity and prestige, but by utilising the possibilities for increased sustainability we also demonstrate our social commitment in cooperation with the surrounding area,” he said.

AT&T sponsors US bid
The USA World Cup bid has unveiled AT&T as its latest sponsor.

“As a major supporter of professional soccer in this country, AT&T is the perfect communications sponsor for the USA Bid Committee’s mission to show the world that the United States would be honored to host the FIFA World Cup in 2018 or 2022,” said bid chairman Sunil Gulati.

“Their global presence as an innovator in communications technology will be a significant asset to our bid and we’re proud to welcome them to our team.”

AT&T is already the exclusive communications services sponsor of US Soccer and Major League Soccer as well as the title sponsor of the annual Major League Soccer All-Star Game. 

AT&T has placed a priority on interacting with US Soccer’s Development Academy and the millions of fans of the MLS and US men’s and women’s national teams. Benefits for fans include exclusive content and access to games through a PC, TV or wireless device.

AT&T will promote the US bid and its online petition – which has already collected more than 980,000 signatures from supporters – through AT&T’s Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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