ZÜRICH, Switzerland — Scratch one major leader from making an appearance and giving an 11th-hour plea for his country to host the World Cup.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced Wednesday that he will not travel here for Thursday’s decision, which had to deal a blow to his country’s hopes of staging the World Cup in 2018.
Putin said that Russia had faced "unscrupulous competition" in its bid to host the Cup.
“I would have liked to have gone myself but in these conditions I have decided not to travel … so that they can make a decision without any pressure from the outside,” Putin reportedly told ministers in Moscow.
First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov will attend the ceremony, Putin said.
The Russians are vying for the 2018 competition along with England, Spain/Portugal and Netherlands/Belgium.
Many of the candidates will bring in their big guns for their final presentations. The 2022 candidates – the US, Australia, Japan, Korea and Qatar – will state their case Wednesday, while the 2018 quartet will present on Thursday.
President Bill Clinton, the honorary chairman of the USA Bid Committee, was flying here for Wednesday's 30-minute presentation.
US Attorney General Eric Holder was a late addition, to show that the US government would support the World Cup. The US' legal risk has been considered a weak point of its bid, according to FIFA inspection reports.
Several countries are bringing in their big guns for their final pleas.
Prince William and Prime Minister David Cameron head the English delegation. Los Angeles Galaxy and England international midfielder David Beckham also will speak.
Portugal Prime Minister José Sócrates and Spain's José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero will help state the case of their country's joint bid.
Korea had Prime Minister Kim Hwang-Shik and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, led his delegation.
For the Netherlands-Belgium joint bid, both prime ministers – the Belgians' Yves Leterme and the Netherlands' Mark Rutte, also with the help of Ruud Gullit and Johan Cruyff.
Australia brought in Quentin Bryce, the governor-general of the Commonwealth of Australia, along with supermodel Elle MacPherson.
Japan did not have a government leader – Kan Suzuki, its minister in charge of sports is its highest ranking official here – although SONY chairman and CEO Howard Stringer led its delegation.
Of the nine candidates for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, the US, Japan and Russia were the only countries without a head of state representing their respective nations. Whether that will hinder those countries' bids remains to be seen.
US Soccer president Sunil Gulati has said in the past that the presence of President Obama at the announcement for the 2016 Summer Games did not help Chicago's bid. In fact, Chicago was embarrassingly eliminated in the first round of voting.
Hours before the US made its final presentation to FIFA, this was the US list of presenters:
President Clinton; Gulati, chairman of the USA Bid Committee; Carlos Cordeiro, vice chairman of the Bid Committee; Don Garber, MLS Commissioner; Landon Donovan, US men's national team player; David Downs, executive director of the Bid Committee; actor Morgan Freeman; Holder, US attorney general; and Mia Hamm, Bid Committee board member and two-time FIFA women's world player of the year.
Join the Galaxy's Edson Buddle & Omar Gonzalez, Miss LA Galaxy and her court and the Galaxy street team on Thursday morning, December 2, at 6:30 a.m. PT at ESPN Zone LA Live for the announcement of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup host countries. MORE INFO