[ZURICH COUNTDOWN] Less than 48 hours before the FIFA executive committee selects the hosts of the 2018/22 World Cups, Ruud Gullit is doing his best to whip up the citizens of Zurich into World Cup frenzy. It's freezing with fresh snow on the ground, but Gullit, head of the Netherlands-Belgium bid for the 2018 World Cup, was out partying Tuesday while the real work of making last-minute appeals for votes is taking place in the cozy confines of old Zurich hotels like the Bauer Au Lac, where David Beckham, Prince Williams and Prime Minister David Cameron could be seen pressing the case for England's sagging bid.
Two World Cup are up for grabs, but the outcome of both campaigns was very much up in the air.
The big news of the day was that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin canceled plans to present on behalf of Russia on Thursday morning when 2018 bid presentations will be made.
WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Putin said on Wednesday that he will not attend the presentations in Zurich because Russia had faced "unscrupulous competition" -- referring to the Spain-Portugal alliance with Qatar.
"I would have liked to have gone myself," he said, "but in these conditions I have decided not to travel... so that they can make a decision without any pressure from the outside."
Russian supporters took the news as a sign that Russia already has the 12 votes to win the 2018 race and doesn't need Putin, whose last-minute appeal on behalf of Sochi to the IOC in Guatemala City helped win the Black Sea resort town's bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Spain-Portugal backers took the news a sign that Russia will lose -- and Putin doesn't want to attach his name a losing cause.
Russia's sports minister Vitaly Mutko, his country's representative on the executive committee, also took aim at the much-publicized Spain-Qatar alliance -- Portugal is considered an afterthought.
"We do not support the idea of any alliance or collusion," Mutko said at a Tuesday morning press conference. "We would certainly like these alliances and collusions not to happen."
About the only thing that was settled on Tuesday was the number of voters. The Oceania confederation gave up its bid to replace suspended Reynald Temarii, meaning 22 executive committee members will vote.
In case of a 11-11 tie in the final round of voting in either race, FIFA President Sepp Blatter will cast the tie-breaking vote.
The USA 2022 Bid Committee confirmed that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will be the fifth member of the U.S. delegation that will present its case to the FIFA executive committee on Wednesday afternoon in Zurich.
His appearance would be a sign that the U.S. government intends to support the World Cup in the United States. The USA's "legal risk" was signaled out as a weakness in the recent inspection reports.
Holder will join former U.S. President Bill Clinton, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati, U.S. national team star Landon Donovan and actor Morgan Freeman.