Blatter Vows to Tackle Corruption; IOC Chief Says FIFA "Can Emerge Stronger" From Crisis

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The FIFA Congress got underway tonight with an opening ceremony at the Hallenstadion in Zurich (WFI/M.Bisson)
(WFI) FIFA president Sepp Blatter opens the 61st FIFA Congress by warning the 208 member associations of the dangers lurking to the sport.

"I thought that we were living in a world of fair play and discipline and I must say this is not the case any longer," he told the 1,300 delegates at the opening ceremony staged at the Hallenstadion in Zurich.

His comments were an explicit reference to the string of bribery and corruption allegations that have rocked world football's governing body to its core.

In probably the least cheerful start to a FIFA congress in its 107-year history, the Swiss said: "The foundations of the FIFA pyramid is suddenly not on its base and there is a danger.

"So tomorrow, at the opening of the congress I will speak to you on the dangers lurking to football and how we can fight and react to this threat or danger to make sure our sport, the most universal in the world, may also play its role in bringing people together in the future."

Blatter is expected to be re-elected as FIFA president in elections on Wednesday. The 75-year-old's presidential challnenger, Mohamed Bin Hammam, pulled out of the race on Sunday amid claims that he offered bribes to Caribbean Union Football members.

He was banned from all football related activities the same day pending a full inquiry.

IOC president Jacques Rogge tells congress delegates that he believes FIFA "can emerge stronger" from its worst ever crisis.

"FIFA is now facing allegations and controversies," he told delegates, saying he was speaking as a "lover of football" rather than as president of the IOC.

"Thirteen years ago we had to face the same ordeal in the Salt Lake City case," he said, a reference to the bribery scandal that led to wholesale changes in the IOC's bidding process for Olympic Games.

"The IOC ultimately emerged a stronger organisation and from within.

"I will not point a finger and lecture... I am sure FIFA can emerge stronger and from within," he added.

Rogge made a point of praising FIFA for its successful staging of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

He went on to point out the "synergistic relationship" between FIFA and the IOC, which had resulted in the staging of the Olympic Games and World Cup within two years of each other in the same host countries on a number of occasions - the 1968 Mexico Olympics were followed by the World Cup in 1970, Munich '72 by the Germany 1974 tournament and USA '94 by the 1996 Atlanta Games.

FIFA is holding the 2014 World Cup in Brazil just two years before the Rio 2016 Olympics.

"The IOC and FIFA have learnt a great deal from each other," he said, also noting their collaboration within the Olympic Movement on "a number of important issues around the world all for the betterment of sport".

These, he added, included cooperation in the fight against doping and in combating match-fixing and illegal betting.

"FIFA has been and continues to be very important to the Olympic Games," Rogge said.

"We are pleased with the current format [U-23 with three over-age players] of the football competition."


By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson in Zurich

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