Friday, 3 December 2010

Set aside the prejudice and look forward to a great World Cup in a great country.

Nobody likes a bad loser.  Ian Parsley is pretty much on the money when he remarks that England just needs ‘to get over’ its failed bid for World Cup 2018.

FIFA’s decision to award the tournament to Russia has become an opportunity for the media to air all the predictable Russophobe clichés.  The startling revelation that US diplomats don’t much trust the Kremlin is sufficient pre-text for sneering references to a ‘mafia state’.

It’s not that anyone would seriously dispute that there is corruption in Russia, or ‘legal nihilism’ as President Medvedev prefers to describe it.  Of course there are also a host of countries with a much better image in the west, whose problems in that regard are as bad, or worse.  They tend to get a ‘by-ball’, to use football terminology, so long as they are pro-American.

The facts are that Russia is likely to stage a great World Cup, the country is an established football nation and it could not be overlooked any longer.  England certainly has some excellent stadiums and an established reputation for hosting big events, but the Russian bid fulfilled much of the ’legacy’ criteria, upon which FIFA places so much value.

There will be great stadiums in Russia by 2018.  There will be high speed rail and the reliability and price of Russian railways already far outstrips anything that Britain can offer.  The people will also prove extremely hospitable, if my experiences are anything to go by, and if fans travel with an open mind, many will fall in love with the country.

Moscow hosted the 2008 Champions League Final, a result which for some reason I cannot remember, with a great deal of success.  Red Square became the venue for an enormous celebration, visa requirements were lifted and tens of thousands of British fans travelled to Russia without serious incident.

That’s a track record which the bid team could point to.

Currently the country is celebrating FIFA’s decision and rightly so.  Though I'm sure there is also an awareness that the hard work is now about to begin.  A feast of football is set to take place across thirteen cities and sixteen stadiums.  Fans will travel free on public transport throughout the tournament, which will, no doubt, mitigate the difficulty of covering large distances.  International hotel chains are already expanding their Russian operations and, no doubt, their efforts will now be stepped up.

Handing Russia the World Cup is a good decision by FIFA, it’s an exciting decision and it gives me just seven and a half years to polish up my Russian for Northern Ireland’s trip to Yekaterinburg!


DR said...

Chekov, I guess in much the same way as the spotlight on South Africa in the lead up to this years world cut helped curb many of the excesses of the ANC, the World Cup should ensure the Kremlin will be more cautious of international criticism and rethoric, so it could be a good thing.
Probably it was theirs all along with the desire to move the finals round a bit more, but that should have been clearer when submitting bids, the whole process was a farce.

O'Neill said...

"Moscow hosted the 2008 Champions League Final, a result which for some reason I cannot remember, with a great deal of success"

Let me remind you;)

I know a few of the N.Irish and English Utd fans who went and they weren't overly impressed with the whole experience, more prices and surly service attitude than anything else more serious but still... put it this way, it's one of the very few capitals in Europe that I'd think twice about going to watch either Utd or N.Ireland play.

If they're serious about making it a success, in not just financial terms, but also with regards image of the country, then a lot of work needs to be done. If the will is there, then such a bid can make a worthwhile difference (as the GAWA saw in a slightly different context last year in Chorzow).

K D Tennent said...

"There will be high speed rail and the reliability and price of Russian railways already far outstrips anything that Britain can offer."

Can you qualify that? I agree on the price, even if they did not make the trains free. But reliability? Everything I've read about Russian railways tends to suggest they are somewhat ad hoc, with much hardware and infrastructure dating from Soviet days. Perhaps my perceptions are just outdated, but I have my doubts.

That said, no particular objection to Russia holding the world cup. Qatar on the other hand...

Ed Simpson said...

The problem is not so much that England lost the bid, but that they never realistically were in the running from the start. They were encouraged to bid even though it is quite likely FIFA never intended to send the World Cup back to England this time around.

As for Russiaphobia. Most of the criticism is entirely valid. It is a vastly corrupt state, intolerant of homosexuals, has no respect for human rights and is unlikely to improve it's attitude before 2018.

Andrew Smith said...

I agree with Ed Simpson, in so much that my disappointment is not that Russia won the bid but in the way the whole bidding process, in particular the technical report, was a whole waste of time and money. The decisions appear to have been pre-ordained (Qatar came bottom of the Technical Report for 2022) and the English delegation setup for humiliation.

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