An envoy from governing body Fifa, fronted by the president of the Chilean football federation Harold Mayne-Nicholls, flew into London yesterday to inspect sites in London, Manchester, Sunderland and Newcastle.
But Prime Minister David Cameron chose to remain on holiday, and David Beckham and Prince William, both ambassadors of the national team, decided to stay away.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, holding the fort in Cameron’s absence, welcomed the envoy to Downing Street, telling them: “I believe this is an exceptionally strong, unbeatable bid. We in this government believe in it, we hope that you will believe in it.
“The excitement and passion behind this bid is huge. There are few nations that can claim the passion we in England have for football.”
Also present for the meeting was culture secretary Jeremy Hunt and sports minister Hugh Robertson.
The six-man Fifa team also met England manager Fabio Capello before embarking on the four-day inspection.
The greeting was in stark contrast to the one received by Fifa in Russia, which is the favourite country to win the bid to host the 2018 finals, where the envoy was greeted by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.