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Last month's vote to determine the site for the International Advertising Association's 1998 World Congress came three days after the attempted assassination of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The Cairo IAA chapter did what it had to do: It devoted the first five minutes of a very tight 30-minute presentation to security concerns.

Still, the 18-to-17 vote in favor of Cairo over Dubai-the other bidding city-was a shock to many. Dubai's presentation had been completed weeks in advance, possibly even before Cairo created its own.

It seemed many IAA members-excluding the Egyptians, of course-felt the decision was a foregone conclusion. Word about Dubai's flashy, multimedia presentation spread, well, across the world. Since no one had seen any hint of Cairo's presentation-by Cairo agencies Americana and Look Advertising-some questioned what its chapter would or could produce.

Marwan F. Rizk, managing director-Gulf of ad agency Horizon, spoke proudly of Dubai's presentation back in April, at an IAA conference held in that city. In May, during an IAA conference in Budapest, the Dubai delegation was self-assuredly suggesting ways that Egypt could be included in the 1998 World Congress planning after Dubai won the vote.

Mr. Rizk attributes Dubai's loss to the fact that the time limit meant details of the program were never heard. In a lengthy written presentation, the program was fleshed out, but voters had little chance to read the opposing documents.

According to Norman Vale, IAA director-general, the vote on site selection has always been close. In the aftermath of the recent vote, there's some talk that the entire procedure for choosing host cities for World Congresses should be reviewed. Mr. Vale said the question of re-evaluation of the process could be raised at the next executive committee meeting in November.

None of this, however, should detract from Cairo's win-a victory made sweeter by the fact that 1998 will be the 30th anniversary of the Cairo IAA chapter, according to Loula Zaklama, president of Rada Research & Public Relations Co. "This will be the last Congress in the 20th century and we intend for it to be the best," she said exuberantly, minutes after the vote was announced in Zurich.

This ancient country's presentation included a TV spot, themed "I Wish I Was in Egypt," created by CM Lintas, London, to run in Europe in October. The tourism-promoting ad pictured the pyramids and other well-known relics. The presentation used one of those esteemed structures, the Sphinx, as the "voice of the 21st century." Apparently, the plan is for the Sphinx to also be the keynote "speaker" for the World Congress in 1998. Dubai needs to take its lead from the Sphinx, an odd symbol for the future, and look toward the next century.

As Mustapha Assad, chairman and CEO of Publi-Graphics, said from Beirut, it's a "win-win situation as long as the Congress will be in the Middle East." The last time the World Congress-held every two years-was anywhere near that region was 1974. The city was Teheran, and the Shah was in power.

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