Sunday, December 21, 2014


Russia

Explainer: With Brazil's World Cup Over, All Eyes Now On Russia

The venerable Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, which was built in 1956 and was the main venue for the 1980 Summer Olympics, is being entirely refurbished at a cost of $800 million. Only the stadium's outer frame will be kept intact.
The venerable Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, which was built in 1956 and was the main venue for the 1980 Summer Olympics, is being entirely refurbished at a cost of $800 million. Only the stadium's outer frame will be kept intact.
By Luke Johnson

Soccer's 2014 FIFA World Cup came to an exciting conclusion on July 13 with Germany's 1-0 victory over Argentina in extra time. Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the final, sitting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

Russia was selected to host the 2018 World Cup back in 2010, becoming the first country in Eastern Europe to hold the contest. Here are a few of the questions surrounding the next World Cup.

Where in Russia will the World Cup games be held?

Matches are scheduled to be played across European Russia. The games will be held in 11 cities: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Nizhny Novgorod, Saransk, Volgograd, Sochi, Yekaterinburg, Kazan, Samara, and Rostov-on-Don. Two of the 12 stadiums hosting matches are in the Russian capital.

Some of the stadiums already exist -- Fisht in Sochi was built for the 2014 Winter Olympics, for example. But many others are being retrofitted for a larger capacity or being built from scratch to meet FIFA standards.

The venerable Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, which was built in 1956 and was the main venue for the 1980 Summer Olympics, is being entirely refurbished at a cost of $800 million. Only the stadium's outer frame will be kept intact. 

How difficult will it be for people to travel to -- and within -- Russia to attend the matches?

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said on July 12 that anyone with a World Cup ticket will be able to enter Russia with simply a passport, therefore bypassing Russia's byzantine visa system.

The geographic distances between the host cities are significant, as well, from St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad in the west to Sochi in the south to Yekaterinburg to the east.

Mutko said there was a plan to develop high-speed trains between Moscow and Kazan. Russia has also promised free ground transportation during the games by train or bus.

How much will the preparations cost?

As with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, which ended up costing a reported $51 billion, the price tag of the 2018 World Cup  is quickly spiraling from initial estimates.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has estimated that the games will cost $20 billion, or about double what Russian President Vladimir Putin said when Russia won the games in 2010.

Brazil's World Cup, which was heavily criticized for its price tag, only cost about $11 billion -- cheap compared to what Russia is projected to spend.

Average costs for refurbishing or building stadiums are 50 percent higher than in Brazil, and the cost per seat is a cool $11,600, according to an analysis by Martin Muller and Daniel Wolfe at the University of Zurich.

FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke holds the slip showing "Russia" during the draw for the 2014 World Cup in Sao Joao da Mata, Brazil, in December 2013.
FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke holds the slip showing "Russia" during the draw for the 2014 World Cup in Sao Joao da Mata, Brazil, in December 2013.

Many of the stadiums will likely suffer from overcapacity in the future as Russian soccer games draw a fraction of the new stadiums' projected capacities, barring an unprecedented surge of interest in the game.

Have there been calls to move the 2018 World Cup to another location?

Yes. Russia's annexation of Crimea and actions in eastern Ukraine prompted two U.S. senators, Dan Coats (Republican-Indiana) and Mark Kirk (Republican-Illinois) to write to FIFA to ask that the games be moved -- and to ban Russia from the World Cup in 2014.

In addition, a petition on the website change.org called for the 2018 World Cup to be moved over Russia's law prohibiting so-called gay propaganda. The petition has over 74,000 signatures, including British actor and LGBT rights activist Stephen Fry.

How likely is it that FIFA would move the World Cup?

It's very unlikely. FIFA rejected the senators' request, suggesting that teams were not responsible for their governments actions because they are "entities outside the pyramidal structure of the game of football." It would also be unprecedented.

What do Russians think of the World Cup?

The state-run pollster VTsIOM found that 54 percent of Russians did not plan on watching the World Cup in 2014. Just 19 percent said they would regularly watch matches and 22 percent said they would watch Russia's games. Three percent did not know about the World Cup.

On the 2018 games, there is little data, but the Russians quoted in the University of Zurich study were not excited.

"I don't have any feelings about the World Cup," one Sochi resident said. "It's too far away to think about. I'm just glad they're using what they've already built. We can't take any more construction."

A middle-aged woman wearing a scarf of St. Petersburg's Zenit soccer team, said, "Even a goat understands that the stadium is just an excuse for oligarchs and bureaucrats to steal money."

One Orthodox priest, Aleksandr Shumsky, in a comment that went viral, claimed that the sport was a "homosexual abomination" because of the players' colorful shoes.