3 Dec 2010

World Cup choices 'a gamble'

8:33 pm on 3 December 2010

Football's world governing body, FIFA, has chosen Russia to host the 2018 World Cup, and Qatar to stage the tournament in 2022.

Observers are calling the choices a gamble, and both countries face immense challenges.

Russia will need to spend billions building stadiums and better infrastructure, but Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says everything will be ready on time.

And doubts remain over whether Qatar will be able to cope with an influx of 400,000 fans. The country has only 50,000 hotel rooms, but bid leaders have promised that 95,000 will be available by 2022.

There are also concerns that the demand for alcohol and potential rowdy behaviour from football fans could clash with the conservative social mores of a country that is still a relatively closed Islamic nation.

The Middle East has never hosted a major global sporting event before.

A secret ballot of the 22 executive members decided the cup venue at a meeting in Zurich on Thursday.

Russia received nine votes in the first round of voting and an outright majority of 13 in the second round.

The announcement prompted angry reaction from some countries that had hoped to host the two World Cups.

England wanted the 2018 final, and spent $30 million on its bid, but got just two of the 22 votes. Prime Minister David Cameron called the result bitterly disappointing.

United States President Barack Obama said FIFA made the wrong decision when it selected Qatar. The US had hoped to host the 2022 tournament.

Australia was also hoping for the 2022 finals, but got just one vote.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she was disappointed but stood by the $60 million spent on the bid, saying it had not been a waste of taxpayers' money.

A technical committee inspection report issued by FIFA earlier this month described Qatar as a potential health risk for players and spectators because of temperatures in June and July that hover at about 50 degrees celsius.

The ABC reports Qatar led the voting through all four rounds.