Joseph Blatter – FIFA President:
As both the President of FIFA and a member of the International Olympic Committee, I was fortunate enough to experience the 29lh Olympic Games in China, and I have fond memories of a fascinating country with wonderful, friendly people. The legendary Olympic spirit, to which many often make reference, was certainly there for the participants and guests alike. We all witnessed fantastic events that were perfectly organised and a shining example of fairness, mutual respect and solidarity.
The Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, and particularly the Men’s and Women’s Olympic Football Tournaments, made history. The two events thrilled and captivated the fans, who were treated to wonderful action and goal after goal by stars of the calibre of Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho and Marta. Both the men and the women treated us to football of the very highest order, and the vast majority of matches were tense and at times dramatic. Argentina were the best team in the men’s competition and rliey deservedly retained the Olympic crown that they won in Athens in 2004, whereas in the women’s event, the USA raised their game to claim gold once more. Brazil’s long wait for Olympic gold goes on, however, even though their men and women claimed consolation in the shape of bronze and silver medals, respectively. My compliments also go to Nigeria, whose performances underlined the progress that African football continues to make.
The fans’ fascination with Olympic football was certainly reflected in the attendance figures. Never before in the 100 years of Olympic football have so manv fans – over two million — flocked to the stadiums to see the world’s most popular sport. The previous record of 1.4 million, set in Los Angeles in 1984, was comfortably surpassed. In Beijing in 2008, only athletics came anywhere near matching the pulling power of football.
Although the Olympic Football Tournaments were a resounding success at this year’s games, we still have to give some serious thought to their future, particularly as we had a number of problems with clubs and the release of players in the run-up to the events. That cannot be allowed to happen again in the future, which is why I would like to see the Olympic Football Tournaments included in the international match calendar. FIFA will sit down with the International Olympic Committee for discussions later this year and I have no doubt whatsoever that, together, we will make the right decisions – for the good of the game and for the good of the Olympic movement.
For the Game. For the World. For the Olympic spirit.