Joseph S. Blatter Joseph S. Blatter, FIFA General Secretary
The Olympic Football Tournaments of 1996 left a slightly ambiguous taste. On the one hand, there was the tremendous appeal of the matches themselves, the element of surprise so essential to a memorable competition, outstanding individual and brilliant collective performances, and the unique atmosphere of football in the United States with over 1.3 million spectators enjoying the spectacle.

Contrasted with this overwhelmingly positive impression, however, there was the disappointment, which cannot be concealed, at the decision of the Olympic planners to stage the entire tournament outside the Olympic city, Atlanta. This break with tradition - at least the Final has always been played in the main city - was above all unfair to the players who deserved to perform on centre-stage.

It is to the players' credit that they shrugged this off as true sportsmen (and women) and treated the crowds in the five selected venues to sporting entertainment of the highest order. Their exploits were followed by football fans throughout the world, even if the Olympic host broadcaster chose to largely ignore the matches for unfathomable reasons which have been debated elsewhere.

Also on the predominately positive side, we must also mention the efforts of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, ACOG, and more especially its Football Competition Manager, Sandra Cress. In the face of difficulties which were not always limited to those mentioned above, Sandra Cress and her team did everything they could to help ensure the success of these Tournaments.

They were rewarded with games that formed the highlight of the football year, the international mix proving once again how our sport benefits above all from the contrast of styles and mentalities which only a worldwide tournament can produce. The contribution of emerging football continents (a description which by now has well and truly become out of date) is a vital element in the success of events such as these, and this holds true not only for men's football but increasingly also for women's.

This Report studies this contribution in the context of the Centennial Olympic Football Tournaments, and will thus match its predecessors in serving as a vital reference work for everyone concerned with the game.