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US stresses diversity in bid to host 2022 WCup

Former President Bill Clinton stressed the diversity of the United States in its bid to host the 2022 World Cup, telling the FIFA executive committee on Wednesday that “we can fill a stadium with home-nation rooters.”

AP, Wednesday 1 Dec 2010
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Clinton, the honorary chairman of the bid committee, spoke at the end of the country’s 30-minute presentation to the 22 FIFA voters. But instead of the magnetism that defined his eight years in the White House, Clinton sounded dry, reading off his script and spending much time talking about his foundation and his past achievements.

The United States is competing with Australia, South Korea, Qatar and Japan for the right to host the 2022 World Cup. FIFA will vote on the 2018 and ’22 tournaments on Thursday.

The U.S. presentation at FIFA headquarters opened with actor Morgan Freeman calling the United States the world’s most diverse country.

Clinton later built on that theme.

“It’s important that all the teams who come to any World Cup venue feel that they, too, are playing at home, not just for people watching on television,” Clinton said. “I tell everyone maybe America’s best claim to this World Cup is that we have the only nation you can put the World Cup that can guarantee no matter who makes the final, we can fill a stadium with home-nation rooters.”

Freeman invoked the name of Nelson Mandela, the former South African president who helped bring the 2010 World Cup to that nation. Freeman played Mandela in the movie “Invictus,” which was about how the former political prisoner used rugby to unite a country that had been separated by apartheid.

“We are now the most diverse nation on earth,” Freeman said. “And our patchwork heritage is our greatest strength.”

Freeman also was off his captivating best, even making a mistake as he was reading his opening statement.

“I’m sorry, I missed a page,” Freeman said after realizing his speech was going in a different direction.

Freeman later introduced a video of President Barack Obama, whose message was similar.

“Ours has always been a nation of great diversity and great promise,” Obama said. “Anything is possible.”

Obama was on hand last year in Copenhagen to help Chicago in its bid to host the 2016 Olympics. But despite his presence, Chicago was eliminated in the first round.

The World Cup bid team noted that no infrastructure needs to be built to host the tournament in the U.S. The Americans also highlighted the growth of football in the country since it hosted the 1994 World Cup.

The biggest thing that could sway voters toward the American bid is the potential money-making prospect of having the World Cup in the United States, and U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati went to lengths to show the voters how much could be made.

United States midfielder Landon Donovan, who was introduced with a video of him scoring against Algeria at this year’s World Cup, said his dream to play football at the highest level came after watching Argentina play Romania in the second round at the Rose Bowl when the World Cup was in the United States.

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