International Attention Turns To Russia 2018 World Cup In Light Of Political Tensions
After what was largely considered to be a successful World Cup in Brazil, int'l attention "now turns to the next hosts, Russia," according to Rafael Saakov of the BBC. Whether current political tensions between Russia and the West "will have any bearing on the staging of the tournament remains to be seen." What "does seem assured is that the 2018 World Cup is set to top Brazil 2014 as the most expensive in history," with Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko saying the budget for the tournament could total $40B, having earlier estimated it at $19B. Critics in Russia "point to the fact that the minimum capacity for World Cup venues is 45,000, while the average attendance for the Russian Premier League is 11,500." Moscow-based campaigner and activist Nikolay Levshits said, "Stadiums have a function, but they must not just lie empty. The construction costs could also be reduced by private investors and sponsors." Russian journalist Igor Rabiner said that Russian organizers "need to learn from Brazil's example." Rabiner: "The more comfortable the stadium is for supporters, the more people will go to matches. But a city like Saransk [one of the host cities for the 2018 finals, with a population of 300,000] does not really need a 40,000-seat arena." Despite the huge costs involved, Levshits, who is a regular participant in opposition demonstrations, said that "he does not expect to see protests on the level seen in Brazil." Levshits: "Such protests here would harm those who take part in them, as state-controlled TV would try to portray the protesters as trying to disrupt a sporting celebration." In the handover ceremony in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he hoped the World Cup would help Russia to fight racism -- "one of the biggest problems facing the country as it prepares to host the 2018 finals." However, "dealing with racism is not the only problem for football authorities in Russia." Hooliganism and violence "remain major problems in the country, with fans continuing to clash with police and disrupt matches" (BBC, 7/22).