Saturday, June 24, 2006

We surprised ourselves...

The strength of the organizational success of this 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany has been the ability of the LOC (Local Organizing Committee) and the FIFA Venue Delegations to work together in what appears a seamlees effort of common purpose and achievement. In recognition of those efforts, it was my pleasure to invite department heads of each discipline in both groups to a festive dinner at one of Cologne's fine eating and wine establishments. This wine cellar was two floor below street level and was nicely decorated and ready for the four tables of very properly dressed officials.

As the guests, Karl-Josef Tanas, LOC Venue Chairman, spoke first. His speech touched on all the right topics acknowledging their counterparts on our side who worked with them in achieving our local success. Then he said something quite extraordinary. He admitted that when the LOC adopted the slogan "A time to make friends", he was quite nervous about it. He didn't feel that what they were being called to do was instinctly in their nature. He said that the greatest accomplishment of the World Cup was how the German people adopted this slogan and actually have lived it throughout the event. For him, he was proudest of the profound impact that the World Cup has made on Germany in being a host and for people, throughout the society, not just the ones involved in the production of the event, but everyone in the shops, the streets, the trains, the airports... whereever you came into contact with people they had adopted the slogan as their own.

He was so correct. Every visitor I spoke to over these weeks couldn't stop praising the extraordinary warmth and welcome they had experienced at all levels throughout their time here. It seems too, that the epidemic of welcome wasn't just in this normally friendly city of Cologne, but had been the atmosphere all over the country.

The dinner was extrordinary with a choice of fish in a delicate cream sauce or a veal on a ragout with a dark wine sauce. The room that night was quite warm. As you will see from the pictures, for comfort we got rid of the formal jackets, but maintained our ties and our smiles. The rest of the evening was spent by exchanging presentations of commemorative gifts, asking the counterparts of the working departments to come up jointly and receive their momentos.

Yesterday, I was told by a staff member how much her Mom loved seeing her picture in this Blog. So, thanks to Mary Lynn, who took pictures of the tables and the presentations, and who has returned to New York for a few days to send her son off to summer camp, I will present to the extent that the software allows me, a montage of pictures from the dinner without editorial.

These are all great people and a wonderful team. It has really been a true pleasure on behalf of FIFA to have led this group in our venue. The decentralized operation of the World Cup in 12 venues in one country performs as well as it does because the staff and volunteers know their job and perform them admirably. This World Cup will be remembered as a standard to measure future ones due to the excellence of the performance of the people. People just like these.

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