10 Things Russia Can Do Better Than Brazil as World Cup Hosts
With the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals in Brazil having now come to an end, already thoughts are beginning to turn towards how to make the next tournament in Russia in four years’ time even better.
However, while there are many aspects of the recent competition in South America that will be hard, if not impossible, to improve upon—such as the carnival atmospheres generated in all the stadia—there is also plenty the East Europeans will hope to be superior at.
And with President Vladimir Putin set to splash out a whopping $20 billion on his country’s staging of the global showpiece event in 2018, reported by NBCNews.com, these are the 10 things Russia can do better than Brazil as World Cup hosts.
Start as You Mean to Go On
OK, now I know the World Cup opening ceremony is hardly the be-all and end-all when it comes to the success, or otherwise, of the tournament itself, as Brazil 2014 ably demonstrated with the way in which their organisers kicked off this summer’s competition.
However, that does not mean that those behind the World Cup in Russia in four years’ time cannot at least make some sort of effort to launch the event with a bang that may actually last longer than the first match.
And the signs look promising in this regard after the eye-catching ceremony Russia recently put on to get the Winter Olympics at Sochi underway.
No Grounds for Concern
The World Cup in Brazil was bedevilled by delays in the construction of the stadiums for the tournament, however, Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko has already assured FIFA and the public at large that there will be no such problems when the competition gets underway in his country in four years’ time.
In fact, two of the planned 12 new grounds across 11 cities have already been built, while a third—the Spartak Stadium in Moscow (pictured above)—is set to open in September, with the hosts understood to be extremely confident of having a far smoother buildup to the event than their counterparts in South America endured in this regard.
One thing Russia can almost definitely guarantee FIFA is that the 2018 World Cup will not be adversely affected by the type of civil unrest that characterised the lead-up and initial stages of its predecessor in Brazil, when mass street protests were a common theme.
Size Does Not Matter
Like Brazil was this summer, Russia will also be a challenge for fans to try to navigate in 2018, with thousands of kilometres separating the various different host cities.
However, the organisers of the next World Cup have already put plans in place to make the tournament less of a logistical nightmare than the one just held in South America, with supporters attending matches to be given both free rail travel to and from games, while they will also not be required to have a visa to enter the country.
‘Less Democracy Is Sometimes Better for Organising a World Cup’
For a World Cup to be successful, it helps massively if the host nation and world football’s governing body are able to form a close working relationship in the years leading up to the actual tournament, something that FIFA and Brazil were never able to achieve.
And while it is still very early days in this regard, signs are that Russia and the powerbrokers in Zurich are set to enjoy a far more harmonious partnership, something secretary general Jerome Valcke (pictured above) hinted at last year when he told BBC Sport, "I will say something which is crazy, but less democracy is sometimes better for organising a World Cup.”
The Culture Club
As was touched upon earlier, Russia is an equally mammoth-sized country as Brazil. However, unlike its South American counterpart, it is not a place which tourists tend to flock to by the thousands every year.
However, as Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko (pictured above) was quick to point out in The Guardian, “All the cities are very interesting. We have a vast cultural heritage,” and as a result, the organisers of the next tournament are keen to display just how varied their vast lands in Eastern Europe are to those fans making the trip.
And if they are able to be successful in that aim, then Russia 2018 can be even better than its predecessor from a cultural point of view.
Leave Behind a Legacy Containing Fewer White Elephants
Already, questions are being raised about just what type of legacy the 2014 World Cup will leave behind in Brazil, especially when it comes to the numerous big-money stadia that the country built in preparation for the tournament.
However, while Russia will, like its predecessor, also be required to construct a number of expensive grounds over the course of the next four years, there is a genuine belief in the country that they will avoid being left with so many tax-funded “white elephant” stadiums as this summer’s host nation is having to now contend with.
And even if all World Cup hosts do initially set out with the stated aim of creating a lasting legacy, then surely Russia cannot do any worse than its predecessor did in this regard by leaving behind a $220 million dollar venue in the middle of the Amazon jungle in a city that has no football team (pictured above).
As Safe as Houses
With February’s Winter Olympics in Sochi having managed to dispel widespread fears regarding the safety of attending a global sporting event in Russia, the organisers of the 2018 World Cup are now confident that the tournament will also pass off just as smoothly in this respect.
And while this summer’s competition in Brazil was far safer than many scaremongers had first predicted, Russia is still hoping to surpass their predecessors in this important field, with sports minister Vitaly Mutko once again taking the time recently to reaffirm that, “We are a safe country.”
A Song for Europe
Now, if you thought the opening ceremony at this summer’s World Cup in Brazil left a lot to be desired, then let’s not get started with the official song for the tournament, “We Are One (Ole Ola)” by J Lo and Pitbull (above video).
In fact, it was so utterly awful that this is one particular area where Russia 2018 cannot fail to improve on in four years’ time.
‘We Will Need to Raise the Benchmark in Terms of General Services’
With stadiums at the 2018 World Cup set to cover an expanse of some 1,500 miles from the Baltic Sea in the west to the Ural Mountains in the east, there have been concerns raised that Russia—much like Brazil at times this summer (above picture)—will also be a logistical nightmare for the thousands of fans travelling to the tournament.
However, after the recent Winter Olympics in Sochi went off without any hitches, those organisational fears have since been well and truly put to bed.
With the host nation also planning on investing about $20 billion in rail improvements ahead of the tournament in four years’ time and sports minister Vitaly Mutko admitting that, “We will need to raise the benchmark in terms of general services,” you do get the very distinct impression that when it comes to ease of accessibility, Russia 2018 will be an improvement on its predecessor.