For some reason known only to the Grandees who operate FIFA pretty much however they choose, every national federation bidding on the 2018 or 2022 World Cup was required to submit a five minute video "introducing" their country to - um, well, I guess to people who are geographically challenged:
"Hello. We're Russia. It's a really, really big place just East of Europe. We have lots of people and oil and nuclear weapons."
These films were screened for the members of FIFA's Executive committee earlier last week (although in an obscene piece of boot licking which must have delighted Jack Warner, the Prime Minister of Australia gave the old CONCACAF pirate a private viewing last week in Port of Spain) and then were unveiled for the media on Friday just prior to the World Cup draw.
Some of the entrants used well known stars to host their film, like Australia, who had Nicole Kidman doing the honors.
Reportedly Qatar had the best presentation - one reporter called it "lavish" - but then they probably spent a few million dollars more than anyone else and hired Spielberg or Jackson (or both) to make them a blockbuster.
England's film was universally panned, described as "the least professional of the 10 bidders" and "a cut-price animated show". Poor old England just can't seem to stop shooting themselves in the foot on this thing. Maybe they should consider hiring someone who knows what they're doing.
Fortunately, England also had David Beckham, fresh off of audibly being called "sweetheart" by Charlize Theron in front of a TV audience of a couple billion people, and possibly because of that - it certainly can't be because of his international soccer exploits - England got plenty of attention anyway.
As for the US, we presented an "ESPN Sports bulletin" type of a thing, and while it was probably very well done - hopefully it will be available online someplace before long - the only problem with it seemed to be that no one was paying attention.
As the US film was being shown, there was suddenly a huge rush by the assembled media to crowd around Luis Figo and Fernando Hierro, who arrived in the middle of it.
It's of course hard to blame the more-than-likely bored-to-death media guys, who were being asked to sit through 10 mostly pointless commercials for no apparent reason (none of them gets a vote) for leaping at the chance to be distracted by something, but US bid committee member Don Garber was not amused:
The US presentation was "TOTALLY RUINED according to The Commissioner, who added: "I think there is an element of fair-play in our sport..That was bad form.”
That quote makes it seem like the Don was accusing Figo of intentionally disrupting the US' show, although the recently retired Portugal star claimed - quite plausibly - that he got there late due to transportation problems.
It's noteworthy that Beckham waited until all the presentations were over before making his appearance, so that he could avoid interrupting anyones' show. Figos' disruption would seem to be more boorishness than gamesmanship.
For their part, a spokesman for the Spain/Portugal bid apologized for the interruption, calling it "unintentional" and Sunil Gulati said he isn't going to file an official complaint.
Of course it's hard to see what FIFA would do about it if he did. Make everybody come back to South Africa and watch it?
FIFA is emphasizing to the bidders that they will be expected to GIVE AS WELL AS RECEIVE - not to be confused with the personal bribery process, that's totally separate - and leave a lasting legacy for the sport worldwide.
To this end, Beckham was trotted out to conduct some clinics with local kids as part of an FA-sponsored HIV awareness project, while the Dutch and Belgian bid brought a team of internationals coached by Ruud Gullit for a game against an African All-Stars lineup held in a blighted area of the city.
Australia, with nothing in the way of stars like Figo or Beckham to parade around, or anything like the ind of players Gullit surely had with him, cut right to the chase and simply donated a million Rand to a Desmond Tutu-sponsored childrens' hospital.
Most of you will recall that four years ago both Comcast and Time Warner were busy fighting with ESPN over whether they should have to pay extra for ESPN2 in HD and finally, at literally the last minute, Comcast sent a check to bristol Connecticut and their customers got to watch every World Cup match in glorious High Definition, while TWC viewers didn't.
Now that both services offer the deuce in HD you probably thought you were going to get the best broadcasts money can buy.
FIFA AND SONY have announced that the latter will be offering up to 25 matches in the new Sony 3D format.
"This groundbreaking deal means that viewers watching the matches on Sony’s 3D products will experience the sheer immediacy and visual clarity of the action as if they were on the pitch themselves."
Of course to do this you're going to have to go out and buy "Sony's 3D products", a detail which has likely not gone unnoticed by the manufacturers.
I'm reminded of the guy who refused to buy a CD player until he could get a promise, in writing, from the music companies that "this is it; we're not coming out with something else next year".
As noted a couple weeks ago, CONCACAF Supremo Jack Warner has pledged the full support of the Confederation - and all three of it's votes - to the USA World Cup bid.
then about ten days ago Warner left a meeting with British PM Gordon Brown SAYING THAT "IT'S ENGLAND'S TIME and apparently promising to back that bid as well.
Of course he got what he has been lobbying for, a private meeting with the Queen, although Warner said afterward that the meetings were "not for (his) ego". My guess is that Her majesty was touting the quality of the hotel food or possibly Londons' nightlife. Hopefully that drooling dolt of a son of hers was someplace else at the time.
So it would appear that Jack is done and done, his ballots practially cast, right? I mean Jacks' word is his bond, right?
Last week, after attending a cocktail party thrown by Australia for him and three other FIFA VPs PRESS REPORTS ANNOUNCED HE IS BACKING AUSTRALIA
"If there is a country that truly deserves to host the FIFA World Cup, then it is the island continent of Australia".
Of course there are only two World Cups being awarded, and to a lesser man this might seem to be a roadblock to endorsing three bids, but for jack Warner it's all in a day's work.
And, oh yes, last week he told reporters that he felt Spain/Portugal was "in the lead" for securing a World Cup.
He's scheduled to visit Russia next month. Good thing they're well known for open and above-board dealing.