Thursday, November 25, 2010
On August 5th, I had the pleasure of visiting with the Prime Minister of Russia, Vladimir Putin, in his private office in the Russian Federation Office Building. It was a very busy day in the nation's capital, with the Prime Minister's itinerary changed, keeping him grounded to his office, due to the rash of forest fires sweeping the Moscow region. That morning I received a call inviting me to come to the House of the Russian Government and have a chat.
Primed and ready for the opportunity, I arrived on time and was brought to a room where I met the very skilled translator who was specialized in simultaneous translation; not with headphones and equipment, but by softly speaking in the complimentary language while each speaker was saying their piece. We chatted informally for a while and then my Exco colleague Sports Minister Mutko joined us, giving us the opportunity to practice and establish a working cadence of translation.
About an hour passed, while the PM had his cabinet in his office to consider how to put out the fires and to reduce the tension and the dense smoke that filled the city. Rain would have helped, but the weatherman brought no relief and the politicians needed to continue to do their best to fight the fires while battling mounting negative public sentiment. Minister Mutko left the room and went to check on when we would be received. While he was gone, I was ushered into a small receiving room with three large comfortable chairs. I calmly waited on the one with my name placed by protocol to make sure I was seated in the right place. All of a sudden, word came to the room that we were to move to another place to actually meet. So, with the translator in tow, we walked down a long corridor and through a room full of cabinet members and key officials. As the large doors to his private inner sanctum swung open, I was greeted by a smiling and very affable leader of the government, Mr. Putin himself.
A firm handshake and a personable smile set the tone for what turned out to be a very special experience. He guided me to sit on a leather couch in the near right corner of the room. At right angles to that couch was another matching one where he took up his position so that we flanked the corner of a large wood bordered coffee table. On my couch, sitting near enough to be part of the conversation was the translator; while on Mr. Putin's was Vitaly Mutko. The conversation began in a normal enough way, each of us thanking the other for making time for the visit. Genial welcomes continued until at one moment, he looked at me with a very serious gaze and said, without cracking a smile, "You know, you look like Karl Marx!"
I guess I could have responded to his observation in any of a dozen unpredictable ways. Instead, I simply winked at him and said, "I know". This brought an immediate response with him lifting his right arm up in the air and thrusting it forward to give me my first High-5 from a Prime Minister. I must admit that it was unique after all we have heard about this famous leader of the Russian Republic with a work history in the KGB. So, who knew what to expect? I can tell you that this began a half hour exchange of wit, charm and effective communications.
Shortly after the High-5, he had some questions about my blog. Yes, this same one you are reading now. He asked how it began. I told him about the World Cup in Germany and the fact that I had many special experiences which I wanted to share with people who didn't have the same opportunities. So, I began Inside the World Cup, which ran until the final whistle in Berlin.
Shortly thereafter, Travels with Chuck Blazer was born. I still had many experiences to share, albeit not accompanied by as much writing as during the World Cup. Instead, more pictures, since recreational writing at times can be very demanding in the face of other obligations. Following discussion on other topics, Mr. Putin rose and walked to a wall behind the table where his cabinet had just met. He slid open two massive doors, revealing a beautiful wooden inlaid map of the whole of Russia, which filled the expanse of the largest wall in the room. As he did this, he talked about a vacation he was about to go on during the waning days of summer. He said that security normally doesn't like him talking about his plans in advance, but he wanted to share with me some of the plans he had in mind. He walked from the western edge of the map where his St. Petersburg home and Moscow were located and walked to the right towards Siberia and great river deltas and continental roadways being connected. He talked of the things he planned to do, but I must admit I thought he was just trying to show me how very large an 11 time zone land mass of Russia is, when walking from the map's western edge to the eastern perimeter.
Before returning to the table, he posed the question, "If I send you pictures from my trip, will you post them in your blog and then what will you do?". I told him yes, the pictures would definitely appear and I would change the name of the blog to "Travels with Chuck Blazer and his Friends". Indeed, what he was telling me was the real preview of his trip. So, I now happily do what I committed to him and share with you the pictures he has been kind enough to send to me. You will note the new title of the blog has now reflected the pictures from my friend. I hope this opens up my forum to allow for other generous contributions of the people I have had the pleasure to meet in my very special role with FIFA.
Thank you Mr. Putin. I hope you enjoyed my retelling of the story of my visit to your office. It was an honor to be there.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Ambassador Shinichi Nishimiya visited the office of CONCACAF in New York to help support the bid of Japan as host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Blazer said that the Japanese bid was an unique document in that it looked into applications of technology that were truly impressive. He said that one of the great advantages of competition in bidding is the opportunity for new ideas and concepts. The Japanese bid had plenty of innovative thinking and Blazer said he was proud to see that his friends in Japan had been so creative. Pictured below, Ambassador Nishimiya and Chuck Blazer pose with the Japan 2022 brochure.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Sunday was spent on the training field at Ramapo College in Mawhaw, New Jersey, where I joined our production crew who were working on a new and important project called CONCACAF Winners Health. They are in the process of shooting a series of 14 medical topics targeted to Coaches, Players and Parents. This plain-talking informative series is being produced in English and Spanish and will be distributed through TV and the internet by CONCACAF in 2011. Watch for it!
Monday, November 8, 2010
Canadian Women's Team hoist the trophy in Cancun.
Mexican team finishes in a heroic second place and qualifies for the FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany next summer.
USA defeated Costa Rica 3-0 to manage third place and a playoff for the FWWC with Italy.
I was there with my friends and colleagues, Guillermo Canedo and Jack Warner.