After Europe had hosted two consecutive FIFA World Cups, the American Federations insisted that the 1962 tournament must be held in South America or face a complete boycott of the tournament, similar to 1938. Argentina, after previously failed candidacies, was considered favourite to host the tournament. However, a delegation from Chile attended the FIFA Congress held in Helsinki during the 1952 Summer Olympics and proposed that Chile was able to organize and host the World Cup for 1962. Several sources reported that FIFA did not want Argentina to run alone, and considered the participation of Chile as almost symbolic. Chile registered its candidacy in 1954 alongside Argentina and West Germany, with the latter withdrawing at the request of FIFA.
Carlos Dittborn Pinto (1924–1962) was the chief Chilean football administrator, who served as President of Club Deportivo Universidad Católica (based in Santiago) and of CONMEBOL (the governing body of football in South America) and was the head of the organizing committee of the 1962 FIFA World Cup in his home country.
Chile’s football federation committee, led by Dittborn along with Juan Pinto Durán, toured many countries convincing various football associations about the country’s ability to organize the tournament in contrast to Argentina’s superior sports infrastructure and prestige. They attended the 30th FIFA Congress held in Lisbon in June 1956 to present their case for hosting the 1962 tournament. Raúl Colombo, representing Argentina’s candidacy, ended his speech with the phrase “Podemos hacer el Mundial mañana mismo. Lo tenemos todo – We can start the World Cup tomorrow. We have it all.”
The next day, Dittborn presented four arguments that supported Chile’s candidacy: Chile’s continued participation at FIFA-organised conferences and tournaments, sports climate, tolerance of race and creed and political and institutional stability of the country. In addition, Dittborn invoked Article 2 of the FIFA statutes that addressed the tournament’s role in promoting the sport in underdeveloped countries. His response to Colombo’s perceived boast was “Porque nada tenemos, lo haremos todo – Because we have nothing, we will do everything“
Chile won 32 votes to Argentina’s 11, with thirteen members abstaining from voting, and Dittborn was selected head of the World Cup organizing committee. With full support from the federal government, work was started in Chile.
Originally, eight stadiums were chosen to host the World Cup matches in 8 different cities: Santiago, Viña del Mar, Rancagua, Arica, Talca, Concepción, Talcahuano and Valdivia.
The Valdivia earthquake, the second of two in the country in 24hrs was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded, peaking at 9.5 on the Richter scale. The ‘quakes happened on 21 and 22 May 1960. With over 50,000 casualties and more than 2million people affected, the major earthquake forced the organizing committee to completely modify the World Cup’s calendar.
The earthquakes destroyed many cities that were supposed to host World Cup matches, such as Concepción, Talca and Valdivia. Other options, like Antofagasta and Viña del Mar, could not handle the expenses involved in being a host city. Dittborn even had a meeting with president Jorge Alessandri to return the money lent by the government. But help came from various football federations, including FIFA – with whom Dittborn personally pleaded to keep the tournament in the country – and the organizing committee was able to guarantee the tournament would go ahead in Chile. Viña del Mar and Arica managed to rebuild their stadiums while Braden Copper Company, then an American corporation that controlled the El Teniente copper mine, allowed the use of its stadium in Rancagua.
In this seemingly hopeless situation, Dittborn’s words at the FIFA Congress became somewhat of a slogan for Chile’s recovery, as well as for the tournament.
Sadly, Dittborn would not live to see his biggest accomplishment come to life. In April 1962, one month before the start of the World Cup, he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was 38. It is generally believed that the burden of securing the World Cup bid was a contributing factor in his untimely death.
In Dittborn’s honour, each player of the Chilean national team played the World Cup with a black stripe taped under his uniform’s badge. One of the stadiums used in the competition, in Arica, was posthumously named after him.