FIFA President Joseph Blatter extends welcome to Congress. PHOTO by Brad Smith / ISIphotos.com
The Opening Ceremony for the 61st FIFA Congress took place at the Hallenstadion in Zurich today with speeches from high-profile figures from the worlds of politics and sport.
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter was the first to speak from the podium and said: “We live in a world where a lot of changes are taking place and we live in a world of troubles. Troubles which are being caused by natural disasters: in Haiti, in Chile, in Pakistan, in Australia, in New Zealand and Japan.
“I thought the football could make a difference thanks to the game’s values of respect, fair play and discipline. But this does not seem to be the case; the footballing pyramid is shaking on its very foundations. However, football must be protected because it belongs to the fans, to the players and not to entities. The game belongs to everyone.”
The evening began with a rendition of Franz Lambert’s FIFA anthem and a parade of the flags representing the organisation’s 208 member associations. Alan Sulc, a 21-year-old juggler from the Czech Republic then took to the stage. Melanie Winiger, a former Miss Switzerland acted as Master of Ceremonies for the evening.
Following the FIFA President’s address, Nicholas Senn then displayed his talents on the hammered dulcimer by playing a varied set of contemporary and classical tunes.
The Mayor of Zurich, Corine Mauch then took to the podium to address the Congress, saying: “I’m proud that Zurich has been the home of FIFA since 1932, as it makes our city the global capital of football. Zurich is a very international city with lots of nationalities and I think that compliments FIFA. Also FIFA’s values in terms of discipline, solidarity and corporate social responsibility are shared with the city of Zurich.”
The 1,200-strong audience were then entertained by a short ballet performance before President of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge delivered a speech. “I’m pleased to be here for this gathering of the world’s most popular sport, just as I was pleased to attend the excellent World Cup in Africa last year,” he said.
“The hosts provided tremendous enthusiasm and a great organisation. For a long time now, the World Cup and the Olympics have had a synergy. The IOC and FIFA have learnt to organise events together. The 2014 World Cup will surely help the 2016 Olympic Games. It is imperative that FIFA and the IOC continue to work together. We’ve already had a great deal of cooperation for the good of sport: the fight against doping, the fight against illegal and irregular betting activities in the definition of the specificity of sport are just a handful of examples.”
Multi-talented Jamaican-born artist Grace Jones then performed a 20 minute set, which included La Vie en Rose. Still fondly remembered for her role in the James Bond film A View To A Kill, she has also experienced success as a singer, actor and model.
President of the Swiss Confederation, Micheline Calmy-Rey, was invited on stage to deliver a speech. She said:
“What I like about football is the fact that it’s a team sport, which relies on individuals. Nothing would be possible without the commitment of each and every member of the team. Football teaches you tolerance. Football is universal. Football is a common denominator worldwide. It unites. Without FIFA it would not be possible for football to be the global game which it is.
“I think your slogan: develop football, touch the world, build a better future is spot on. Your initiative, Win in Africa with Africa, helped the whole continent to benefit from the 2010 FIFA World Cup. You helped Palestine to have its own stadium and contributed in bringing harmony between Armenia and Turkey. FIFA is an example to many football fans and therefore it essential that you fight carefully against the troubles you’re facing at the moment.”
Jones’s rendition of her most famous song: Slave to the Rhythm indicated that the Opening Ceremony was drawing to a close. The Congress proper begins at 9.30 CET on Wednesday. It will be streamed live on FIFA.com, as will the press conference which is due to be held afterwards.
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