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Posted at 8:44 AM ET, 12/ 1/2010

Putin opts to skip World Cup vote, strengthening England's bid

By Cindy Boren

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has pulled out of the group presenting Russia's 2018 World Cup bid on the final day of politicking and celebritizing preceding FIFA's Thursday announcement of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup sites.

Putin, who also addressed more serious world matters, said that the Russian bid had faced "unscrupulous competition," a reference, the British papers say, to their reports of FIFA corruption.

"We have unfortunately witnessed a campaign against members of the FIFA executive - filth and compromising material has been poured over them. I see this as unscrupulous competition ahead of the vote," Putin said in Moscow. "I would have liked to have gone myself but under these conditions, I have decided to refrain from travelling out of respect for the members of FIFA, the members of the FIFA executive, so that they can make a decision calmly without any pressure from the outside."

The contingent pushing England's now-strengthened 2018 bid in Zurich, where the 22 FIFA voters are meeting, is led by Prime Minister David Cameron, Prince William and David Beckham (who's discovering his inner politician. Sample question: How do you keep your beauty?). Although Spain-Portugal is doing its politicking on the QT, the Belgium-Netherlands bid is being touted by soccer great Johan Cruijff.

The contingent presenting the United States' bid for 2022 is led by former president Bill Clinton, actor Morgan Freeman and Landon Donovan. Pretty heavy star power, although, as Steve Goff writes today, Qatar is making a strong late push. Australia, Japan and South Korea also will make final presentations.

By Cindy Boren  | December 1, 2010; 8:44 AM ET
Categories:  World Cup  
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