Russia and Qatar bag World Cups

ZURICH - FIFA gave its ultimate recognition to emerging markets on Thursday when they awarded the 2018 and 2022 editions of the prestigious and lucrative World Cup finals to Russia and Qatar.

Russia won the right to put on the 2018 World Cup, the first time it will have been staged in Eastern Europe after 10 editions in the western half of the continent.

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Qatar will stage the 2022 finals, a first both for the Middle East and for an Arab country. It will also be the smallest nation ever to host the World Cup with a population of less than a million.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who announced the winners after a vote of his executive committee in the Swiss financial capital, said: "We go to new lands.

"Never has the World Cup been in Russia and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East and Arabic world have been waiting for a long time so I'm a happy president when we talk about the development of football."

NEWS: Full breakdown of voting

This year's World Cup was held in South Africa, the first time it had been held on the African continent.

Football's governing body's executive committee voted for the two winning bids after a fierce lobbying campaign which saw world political leaders and top sports personalities gather in Zurich to press their case for one of the most prestigious and lucrative prizes in global sport.

LONG-TIME FRONT RUNNERS

Russia defeated the challenge of three other European bidders, England and the joint bids of Netherlands/Belgium and Spain/Portugal.

They were long-time among the front runners but the non-appearance of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for campaigning before the vote in Zurich coupled with U.S. diplomatic cables which emerged on Wikileaks describing Russia as a "corrupt autocracy" appeared to have damaged their bid in the past 24 hours, according to some observers in Zurich.

Qatar took the honours for 2022 over rivals Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States.

They committed in their bid document to FIFA building nine new stadiums and renovating three existing grounds at a cost of around $3 billion.

Russia deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov, whose delegation whooped with delight on the announcement, said: "You have entrusted us with the FIFA World Cup for 2018 and I just can promise, we all can promise, you will never regret it. Let us make history together."

Qatar bid chief Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Thani told the FIFA executive: "Thank you for backing us and expanding the game. You will be proud of us and you will be proud of the Middle East."

The voting process took place against a highly charged background after British media outlets made allegations of corruption against a number of FIFA's executive committee members.

The executive committee, reduced to 22 after two were suspended over the allegations, voted in secret. No details of the counts were made available immediately by FIFA but bid member Gary Lineker told Reuters that England had gone out in the first round of voting for 2018.

Iberian bid leader Miguel Angel Lopez said Russia had gained an absolute majority on the second round of voting for 2018, eliminating the two joint bids, including his own.

Putin, who said on Wednesday he would not go to Zurich because of an "unscrupulous" campaign to smear FIFA, said earlier on Thursday he would fly straight to Zurich if Russia won.