Living up to Russia’s World Cup Image

shuvalov_worldcup.jpgThis opinion from Ingo Mannteufel of Deutsche Welle strikes me as amusingly naive, but given that so many Russian football fans are ecstatic over the news of the 2018 World Cup, I think it’s OK to indulge in a few moments of fantasy that this sporting event will also bolster democracy, human rights, and anti-corruption efforts.  Frankly, we should just let sport be for the people and politics for the politicians, as these aren’t even areas where FIFA’s endorsement should be seen as positive….

Nevertheless the decision by FIFA to hold the World Cup, for the first time in its history, in Eastern Europe is a good one. The World Cup is a massive celebration of sports fans in a “global village.” It’s not just the opportunity for cultural exchange. Rather it actually forces the host nation and its international guests to get to know each other. Hundreds of thousands of fans will stream into Eastern Europe and especially Russia in the next decade to discover this part of Europe for themselves. In 2012 the European Championship is to be held in Poland and Ukraine; in 2014 the Winter Olympics are in Sochi and now in 2018 the World Cup will be held in 13 Russian cities that most people in Europe have never heard of. Who in western Europe has heard of Saransk or Yaroslavl?

This will put a lot of pressure on the Russian government to reallymodernize and Europeanize Russia, so that visitors take a positiveimpression of the country back with them when they return home.

Being chosen as the host for the World Cup is good for a country’simage at least until the first whistle blows and the tournament begins.Then the host nation will have to deliver on its promises if it doesn’twant to lose its credibility in the eyes of thousands of guests and therest of the world. Russia will have to change in the next several years,perhaps more than Putin and the other ruling elite would like. Andthat’s a good thing. Congratulations, Russia!

Yes, Chinese citizens are now all free as birds following the Beijing Olympics…