UEFA has handed the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Women's Champions League trophies over to London at a ceremony ahead of next month's finals in the city.
With the UEFA Champions League final being staged at Wembley on 25 May, two days after the women's decider at Stamford Bridge, UEFA President Michel Platini presented the silverware to sports minister Hugh Robertson and Kate Hoey, MP and the mayor of London's commissioner for sport, at the Banqueting Hall in Whitehall. Last season's UEFA Champions League winners Chelsea FC – whose ground will hold this year's women’s event – were represented by John Terry, Frank Lampard, Petr Čech, Fernando Torres and Branislav Ivanović while Lotta Schelin, part of the Olympique Lyonnais squad who have won the last two women's finals, was also in attendance.
"The UEFA Champions League final is the greatest fixture in world sport," said Robertson. "We're delighted to have it back in London after its last appearance at Wembley in 2011. 2012 was a fantastic sporting summer for the UK and London, and 2013 is in its own way equally exciting. The UEFA Champions League final is the jewel in the crown and thanks to UEFA and Mr Platini for the honour you do in entrusting us with this great fixture."
David Bernstein, chairman of the Football Association (FA), added: "This promises to be two fantastic finals. It's a great honour for Wembley and London to host this in the FA's 150th year. Memories of the 2011 finals are still fresh and expectations are mounting that we can match or even surpass that. Next week is Wembley's 90th birthday; it is incredible that a stadium can hold fans in its thrall across the generations, and part of that is the European Cup finals that have been held there. I'm sure the seventh will be just as good as the previous six.
"We're also delighted to be hosting the Women's Champions League final," Bernstein continued. "Women's football is the third biggest sport in the UK and still growing quickly. The final will be another great occasion and another boost for the women's game."
"London has a long tradition in sport and the success of the Olympics and Paralympics last year gives us an extra incentive to make sure London continues to be a venue for major sporting events," Hoey told the audience. "We're absolutely delighted to be hosting the men's and women's finals. We've enjoyed previous finals immensely and look forward to this in the FA's 150th year."
As the women's trophy was handed to Michel Platini and Kate Hoey, the Lyon delegation took to the stage with Schelin looking back on their first UEFA Women's Champions League final triumph in London. "We were here two years ago – it was an amazing event and an amazing final," the Sweden striker said. "We have so many good memories from 2011 and we hope we'll have some more this year."
The UEFA Champions League trophy was then passed to the city of London, with Chelsea captain Terry admitting the moment was bittersweet. "It's quite sad giving it back after we worked so hard for it for so many years," he said. "To win it the way we did made it all worthwhile. It's a beautiful trophy and a great competition."
Before their arrival at the Banqueting Hall, both prizes had travelled across the city by public transport in the company of Graeme Le Saux and Faye White, ambassadors for the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Women's Champions League final respectively. The journey started at Stamford Bridge and continued on the London Underground system – which is marking its 150th anniversary – the iconic new Routemaster bus and by classic London black cab.
The trophies now go on a nationwide tour until 22 May and will then be on show at the annual UEFA Champions Festival between 23 and 26 May, part of a week of activity taking place across London. The free four-day football celebration, featuring a series of family-friendly activities, will be the first major event to come to the home of the 2012 London Olympics since last summer, being located at The International Quarter close to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
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