Football: FIFA gives thumbs-up to Japanese stadium

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FIFA officials inspecting Japan's bid for the 2022 World Cup gave the thumbs-up to a major football stadium outside Tokyo Wednesday, according to the Japanese bid chief.

A five-member team from the sport's world governing body visited the 64,000-seat stadium in the satellite city of Saitama, north of Tokyo, after spending two days in the western city of Osaka.

The nine-year-old Saitama Stadium was used in the 2002 World Cup, which was co-hosted by Japan and South Korea, and has been home to popular J-League club Urawa Red Diamonds, who won the AFC Champions League title in 2007.

The FIFA team, led by Chilean Football Federation president Harold Mayne-Nicholls, toured the stadium - one of 13 in Japan's bid - for about one hour and checked the condition of the pitch, seats and changing rooms.

"They looked at things in great detail and seemed to be very much impressed," Japan Football Association president Motoaki Inukai, who heads the Japanese bid committee, told reporters. "They rated it as a fine stadium."

The FIFA inspectors arrived Monday on a four-day visit to Japan, the first leg of a two-month tour of nine candidates for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

FIFA's 24 executives will choose the hosts on December 2 in Zurich.

In Osaka, they used a helicopter to see a former railway yard by the city's central station, the site for a projected 83,000-seat solar-powered stadium which would be used for the opening match and final in 2022.

They also attended a presentation on Japan's bid, which includes a plan to treat football fans worldwide to live three-dimensional broadcasts of matches.

In Tokyo on Wednesday they toured a downtown convention centre, the Tokyo International Forum, which will be used for a World Cup draw, before meeting Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

The team next visits South Korea, Australia, joint bidders the Netherlands and Belgium, Russia, England, Spain-Portugal, the United States and Qatar.

Japan, South Korea, Australia and Qatar have submitted bids for 2022 only, while the others are seeking to host either 2018 or 2022.