Exclusive - Russia and Qatar Ready for FIFA Investigation into 2018/2022 Bid Victories

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Russia 2018 officials, including CEO Alexey Sorokin, celebrate the bid victory on December 2, 2010 (Getty)
(WFI) The Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 organising committees tell World Football INSIDER they have nothing to fear from an investigation into the scandal-hit bidding process that led to their shock World Cup awards in December 2010.

Michael J. Garcia, the chairman of the investigatory chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee, confirmed to German TV channel ARD at the weekend that he would examine the bidding contests for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were tainted by a string of bribery allegations involving FIFA Ex-Co members.

Ahead of the crucial vote on the hosts, FIFA provisionally suspended Nigerian Amos Adamu and Reynold Temarii from Tahiti for allegedly offering votes for the 2018 and 2022 bids in exchange for money. Video footage published by Britain's Sunday Times newspaper showed Adamu asking for $800,000 to fund pitches and Temarii demanding around $2.4 million to pay for an academy. They were banned from the Dec. 2 secret ballot.

Allegations of collusion over vote-swapping involving Qatar 2022 and Spain-Portugal were also made before the FIFA decision to pick the 2018 and 2022 hosts.

In a statement sent to INSIDER, a Russia 2018 spokesman said: "We at Russia 2018 are proud of the way we conducted ourselves throughout a long and highly competitive campaign; as an LOC, we are driven by exactly the same transparency, commitment to excellence and spirit of fair play that underpinned our successful bid.

"Right now, our focus is on ensuring the momentum behind our preparations continues to build.

"We are already looking forward to welcoming the global football community to a celebration of the values we all share and the game we all love in 2018."

Against all expectations, Qatar shocked the world when the Gulf state was awarded 2022 hosting rights to take the World Cup to the Middle East for the first time.

Like the Russian bid, the oil-rich nation's pitch to stage the World Cup was regarded as risky compared to its rivals with a number of significant shortcomings detailed in FIFA’s evaluation report.

While FIFA's concerns about Russia focused on transport infrastructure, its chief inspector Harold Mayne-Nicholls had raised “logistical” and transport issues in staging the World Cup in Qatar. The much-hyped but unproven "revolutionary" cooling technologies proposed to combat the Gulf state's fierce desert summer heat and protect players and fans were also considered a major concern.

However, it's the allegations of bribery that Qatar 2022 has struggled to shake off since its momentous victory.

But Qatar 2022 tells INSIDER it
Qatar 2022 World Cup chief Hassan al-Thawadi (WFI)
has nothing to hide when FIFA's top investigator Michael J. Garcia comes knocking at the door.

"Our successful bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup was conducted in accordance with the highest moral and ethical standards and integrity from start to finish, strictly adhering to bidding rules and regulations," a spokesman said.

Last year, a whistleblower claimed Qatar had paid $1.5 million bribes to three FIFA Ex-Co members. But Phaedra Almajid, the bid's former media officer, later retracted the corruption allegations, saying they were a complete lie and apologised to the members, FIFA and the Qatar bid.

Qatar 2022 World Cup chief Hassan al-Thawadi has always maintained that the Gulf state's bid won the bid race cleanly, insisting that the country did not break any FIFA rules in its big budget campaign and dismissing suggestions that Qatar paid bribes to FIFA Executive Committee members in exchange for their votes. He has said there is "not a shred of evidence" to support any claims of corruption.

"The people of Qatar and the Middle East are excited at the prospect of welcoming to the world to their region for the world’s greatest sporting event," the Qatar 2022 spokesman added.

"Since December 2, 2010 we have been working tirelessly to ensure that the proper foundations are in place for the ten years that lie ahead of us.

"Our focus is solely centered on delivering upon the promises we made and ensuring that the first FIFA World Cup to be held in the Middle East is a successful event that bridges cultural divides and leaves a lasting legacy for the international football community."

Further details on Garcia's review of the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process may emerge from next month's FIFA Executive Committee meeting.

But with World Cup preparations accelerating in Russia and Qatar - billions of dollars of investment are allocated on stadia, transport and hotel projects and Russia is announcing its host cities in September - the American's review of the corruption-hit bid contest is a complicated task. Whether his report can stand up any corruption allegations, and what sanctions may be applied, are the burning questions. Ultimately, his review could end up serving only to highlight the flaws of the ill-conceived Sepp Blatter plan to hold a dual bidding process.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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