Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Moscow Now Focused on Defending Its Right to Host 2018 World Cup, Russian Sports Analyst Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 20 – Because of the doping scandal which is about the Russian state more than about Russian athletes, Moscow officials have concluded that it is unlikely that any Russian athletes will participate in the Rio Olympics and have now turned their attention to preventing the international sports authorities from taking the 2018 World Cup away from Russia.

            That is the judgment of Nikita Belogolovtsev who says that it would take “a miracle” for Russian athletes to be allowed to go the Olympiad but that it is still possible to prevent the loss of the 2016 World Cup competition because most international groups don’t see a way to shift it given the short time and the high cost of doing so (

            “It seems to me,” the Russian sports journalist says, “that now our diplomatic efforts must be – and certainly will be – focused on attempts to defend the 2018 football world championship because it is obvious that it is in immediate danger” because the WADA has talked about “systematic” violations of anti-doping procedures in Russia at Sochi and elsewhere.

            Russia’s application for the 2018 World Cup was, Belogolovtsev points out, “to a large degree based on the fact that look we carried out all these earlier championships in a wonderful way and we will conduct that championship in the same way.”

            “Now,” he says, “there is no certainty” that Moscow will be allowed to a competition that for Vladimir Putin is one second in importance only to the Sochi Olympiad over which a shadow has now been cast.  Indeed, were it not for the fact that most international groups don’t think they have the time or money to shift it, Russia would almost certainly be stripped of that competition.

            Despite the importance of the World Cup for the Kremlin, Russia is not now close to being ready to host a competition that most of the world will watch. Many of the stadiums are not finished, and much of the infrastructure needed to support the massive influx of competitors and fans has yet to be built.

            The latest indication of those problems came this week when St. Petersburg officials cancelled the contract they had had with firms involved in building a new stadium in Russia’s norther capital.  The officials said that the firms had been unable to account for some 39 million US dollars they had been given (

            Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev recently denounced the firm, Inzhtransstroy-SPB as “disgraceful.”  And Vadim Tyulpanov, head of the Duma committee with oversight over preparations for the 2018 competition, said the situation in St. Petersburg was a serious cause for concern.

            “If the stadium is not commissioned in December,” the Duma deputy said, “we won’t be able to host the tournament in June.”  According to Tyulpanov, the stadium is approximately 85 percent complete. Stadiums and support facilities in the more than a dozen other places in the Russia where the competition is slated to be held are in many cases far less complete than that.

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