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SBJ/20101129/This Week's Issue
Gulati: We’ll show FIFA ‘our passion to stage a great World Cup’
Published November 29, 2010
On Wednesday, the U.S. Bid Delegation will go before the FIFA Executive Committee in Zurich, Switzerland, to try to bring the World Cup to the States in 2022. The delegation has 30 minutes — and not a minute more — to persuade FIFA to choose the U.S. over Australia, South Korea, Qatar and Japan.
Sunil Gulati, president of U.S. Soccer, is chairman of the bid committee, and will lead the U.S. delegation, along with former President Bill Clinton. Gulati answered questions from staff writer Fred Dreier over e-mail from Europe last week about the coming vote.
SBJ: What is the No. 1 point you will have to prove/show in order for the U.S. to clinch the votes needed to win?
Gulati: I don’t think it is something we need to prove so much as we need to illustrate and make clear, and that is the passion we have in the U.S. for the game and our passion to stage a great World Cup. To an extent, the numbers tell one story, whether they are the 4 million registered players, World Cup television ratings, tickets purchased for the South Africa World Cup, our record attendance and revenues for the tournament in 1994, and so on.
Now, how do we tell the other story, the one that strikes a chord toward how a World Cup in the U.S. can take those numbers and increase them dramatically? How can a U.S.-hosted World Cup make a difference for FIFA, its member associations and people from around the world, well beyond those numbers? How has the World Cup we had here in 1994 closed the gap between cultures and people from all walks of life, and how would that continue in 2022?
SBJ: Have you ever considered a joint bid with either Canada or Mexico?
GULATI: The idea of a joint bid between nations makes sense if you need the strengths of each to put forth the most complete and compelling bid. It’s under those circumstances that FIFA allows a joint bid. In the United States, however, we actually had to make difficult decisions to trim our host cities from 27 to 18 for our bid, and if we are fortunate to be named the host in 2022, we will have to reduce our field even further. We have an abundance of stadiums, services and much more within our borders. However, Canada and Mexico are each outstanding partners of ours in CONCACAF — indeed both federations have been extremely supportive of our campaign — and their citizens and fans would feel right at home in a U.S.-hosted World Cup.
SBJ: How will you and President Clinton collaborate on the presentation?
Gulati: We’re very much in sync, so you could say we’ve been collaborating on our presentation for months. President Clinton has been very accessible and we have also been working closely on the presentation itself with his team, including his chief of staff Doug Band, who is also a member of our Board of Directors. It’s been a rewarding experience for us and we’re very grateful for the time and attention President Clinton has given to all aspects of our bid.
SBJ: How many times will you have practiced it before giving the presentation live?
GULATI: Let’s just say we will not lack for preparation.
SBJ: And your pre-bid dinner meal?
Gulati: I’m not sure we’ll have time for carbo loading the night before the presentation but we’ll get together to have a final discussion over dinner.