Japan prepares 2018 World Cup bid

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The Independent Online

With the World Cup 2010 finals in South Africa just a few months away, Japan is already preparing its bid to host the largest single sporting event in the world in eight years' time.

Football fever will again sweep the world when the first African World Cup kicks off in July, and Japan is hoping for a good showing from its team on the pitch to support the campaign to have the event return to Japan in 2018.

Japan jointly hosted the tournament with South Korea in 2002 - an event that won acclaim from around the world for the quality of the stadiums, organization and security - but it now wants to go one better and stage the matches on its own.

"There are some who say that we're trying to host the tournament again too soon after it was last in Japan, but we feel that this is a positive thing for the bid because we have experience in managing an event on this scale and we have high-quality stadiums and the infrastructure already in place," Suminori Gokoh, director of the Japan World Cup bid committee, told Relaxnews.

The committee has just named the 12 municipalities across Japan that are hoping to stage matches if Japan wins the contest, although it will be up against tough competition from England, Russia, the United States, Australia and joint bids from both Spain and Portugal and the Netherlands and Belgium.

An alternative might be for Japan to try to clinch the 2022 tournament, for which South Korea, Qatar, Indonesia are bidding, along with the US and Australia.
FIFA, the sport's world governing body will make a decision on the host nations for both tournaments on December 2.

Gokoh believes Japan has an edge over its rivals.

"Other countries might want to hold the tournament and say they are ready, but only Japan can make such a firm promise," he said.

The committee is presently drawing up plans to convince FIFA to select Japan, including a massive expansion of the "Fan Fests" from seven cities around the world and a further 10 locations within South Africa. The events are set up for fans who are not able to attend the games live but can gather to watch the action live on huge television screens.

Nine stadiums that hosted games in the 2002 World Cup will undergo upgrades, according to Gokoh, and a further three existing stadiums will be added to the venues. A new 80,000-seat stadium is also being planned for a site near Osaka Station.

FIFA rules require a host nation to have between 12 and 18 stadiums for matches and a minimum of 64 cities or towns willing to act as team base camps.

"We would like to make a wonderful Bid Book and win the bidding race," Japan Football Association Secretary General Kozo Tashima told reporters at the announcement of the venue cities. "We want to show that Japan can help develop world football by hosting the World Cup."