FIFA unveils new headquarters

FIFA president Sepp Blatter inaugurates the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, May 29, 2007. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

ZURICH (Reuters) - World football’s governing body FIFA officially opened its new $196 million (99 million pound) headquarters on Tuesday as delegates arrived for the start of a two-day congress.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said the vast glass-fronted complex would “allow light to shine through the building and create the transparency we all stand for.”

The ‘Home of FIFA’, which includes five underground levels, a fitness centre, meditation room, geographically themed parks and a full-size international football pitch, has actually been in use since FIFA moved from its nearby old headquarters last May.

The organisation delayed the official inauguration to coincide with this week’s congress.

The timing turned out to be less than ideal on Tuesday with high winds and driving rain causing the cancellation of an intended flag ceremony and forcing the official plaque unveiling to be held under the shelter of a marquee.

“The sky is touched with tears but we can live with that because football also has to live in all weather conditions and rain is a gift from heaven,” said an upbeat Blatter who survived a bitter presidential vote in 2002 but is this week set to be re-elected unopposed by the congress delegates.

“There are people who have said this building is a palace,” he added.

“It they think so, we are happy, but it is more than just a building to be shown. It is like a home where people can meet, talk, rest and retreat in silence and contemplation.”