Football: World Cup 2002 on course

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Plans for splitting the 2002 World Cup finals between Japan and South Korea are making encouraging progress, Fifa, world football's governing body, insisted yesterday.

The two countries have agreed to set up a joint co-ordination office and each will appoint an inter-ministerial delegate, who will report to Fifa. "Such a joint governmental body is essential for 2002," Fifa's general secretary, Sepp Blatter, said. "For the purposes of the World Cup the two countries are to be considered effectively as one," he added.

Fifa decided last May to award the finals to both Japan and Korea after a fierce and divisive campaign between the two rivals. Joint preparations were initially marked by disagreements, although the atmosphere has reportedly improved since then.

The latest Fifa planning meeting focused on points like security, visas, insurance and telecommunications. Fifa wants to have only one set of visa requirements and other formalities - just as if the tournament were being played in one country.

"The fact that we are already discussing issues of this kinds is an indication of the exceptionally good progress," Blatter said.