World Cup fever - Russia headed for rude awakening?

Russia has got off to a better start than any other World Cup host in the tournament. Its cities were filled with jubilant fans and motorcades after the Russian team's second victory in its match against Egypt. But commentators suspect the celebratory mood about the team's victories will soon give way to political discontent.

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Vedomosti (RU) /

World Cup euphoria won't last long

Vedomosti sees the ebullient mood in Russia brought on by the World Cup as an artificial, fleeting phenomenon:

“We're acting as if everyone can walk the streets here waving flags and chanting and shouting whatever they like. ... We welcome the British fans, yet our relations with London are abysmal. As they are with the West as a whole. ... We're even acting as if our heads hadn't been filled for years with reports of 'Gayropa' being crushed under the burden of the migrants and a Janus-faced America. Today, dear guests, we are charming hosts, but tomorrow you'll leave and we'll wake up with a hangover, literally as well as figuratively. Phew! And then we won't have to go around smiling and helping people anymore, and we can return to avoiding police officers and crowds like the plague. And fearing foreigners.”

Novoye Vremya (UA) /

Our winning streak will soon be over

Commenting in Novoye Vremya, Norwegian political scientist Pavel Bayev also predicts a rude awakening after the World Cup:

“Even if there are no organisational problems or terrorist attacks, the World Cup will be over by mid-July and things will turn sour again again in August. This extremely costly sport event is undoubtedly bringing masses of unruly fans to Russia. But the discontented ageing workers who have been deprived of their pensions, as well as the country's deeply unsettled neighbours, who are only too familiar with Russia's tendency to defy international order, take a different view of the situation.”

Latvijas Avīze (LV) /

Putin should be on trial instead

Russia doesn't deserve to host the World Cup, Latvijas avize declares:

“The country should be in the dock at the International Court of Justice because it bears responsibility for the 'commonplace' murders, poisonings, the war in Donbas, the bombing of Syria and the MH17 plane crash. Through these criminal actions thousands of people have been murdered, but none of this was enough to prompt a World Cup boycott. ... Everything is carrying on as usual - the football World Cup and Russia's crimes. Russia's big boss is now the gracious host, a true sports enthusiast who is receiving recognition and enjoying the victories of his team against Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Tomorrow he can pick up where he left off before the World Cup.”

Republic (RU) /

Finally a reason to party non-stop!

Republic encourages its readers to simply enjoy the football and the party atmosphere:

“So everything is bad? Certainly not, everything is perfect! Seriously now. In 11 cities a huge show is running with tens of thousands of foreign guests. In view of the current circumstances in politics and sport it's hard to say when so many people will come to us again for such a good reason. ... Numerous surveys and studies have shown that the inhabitants of a country where the Olympics or a World Cup is taking place remain happy for a prolonged period of time. ... Because their country is the venue for a carnival and you can't escape the mood. So the best advice for this month is: let yourself be caught up in the carnival mood! And what happens when it's over? We'll think about that later.”

Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

Party-time in a house that's on fire

The Russian environmental activist Yevgeniya Chirikova points out in an interview with Eesti Päevaleht that the World Cup is taking place at the expense of the Russian population:

“Without doubt the Russian leadership will give its all and organise a great show. But the price the Russians will pay for this is another matter entirely. Because at the same time hospitals and schools are being closed down and train services discontinued. ... It's taken for granted that they can bleed the people dry in order to put on a pompous show. For some it's a party, for others it's a big hole in their pocket. A desperate search for money to plug the holes in the national budget is going on. What can be done about the huge forest fires when there is no money to fight them? The house is catching fire but the money is being spent to make a good impression on the guests.”

hvg (HU) /

Lucrative business for Putin's friends

Vladimir Putin has made sure that there is no evidence that Russia used corrupt means to win the bid to host the World Cup, hvg notes:

“When the investigation began the computers that were used for the call for proposals were destroyed. Letters and documents accidentally went missing. According to official figures, the costs of the World Cup didn't exceed 11 billion dollars. But that doesn't mean that juicy contracts didn't go to oligarchs with close ties to the Kremlin or that sparkling new stadiums haven't been built that will be problematic to keep in operation after the World Cup.”

La Stampa (IT) /

No one reckoned on a host like this

La Stampa recalls what relations with Moscow were like back when the decision to hold the World Cup in Russia was first made:

“2010, when Putin got the chance to be the host of the World Cup, seems long ago. President Obama wanted good relations with Moscow. The war in Ukraine and the occupation of Crimea hadn't yet left the country isolated through major economic sanctions. The former agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter hadn't yet been poisoned in Salisbury, and flight MH17 hadn't been shot down while flying over pro-Russian militia in a disputed area in eastern Ukraine. Putin had neither supported the Syrian dictator Assad nor had his friends, the oligarchs, been accused of illegal interference in the 2016 US election campaign.”

Irish Examiner (IE) /

Parallels to Hitler's propaganda games

The fact that an autocratic ruler like Vladimir Putin is playing host to the Fifa World Cup reminds the Irish Examiner of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin:

“Hitler saw those games as an appeasers' embrace, as a gesture of fellowship he would betray within three years. Putin, Russia's unquestioned leader for 18 years, has betrayed the values that sustain our world for longer than three years. ... When he smiles his permafrost smile on Thursday, Putin will know the real contest is already over and that he has won. ... Once again, our wilful complacency may, as it did after the Munich games, present us with a catastrophic bill.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Get to see Russia from its best side

Although we may find Putin and his regime unappealing that's no reason not to go to Russia for the World Cup, the Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“On the one hand we should avoid tarring the people who live there with the same brush as the regime. Anyone who travels to Russia will see as soon as they get there that things are far more pleasant there than in the US, for example. There's no cross-examination: a quick look at your visa and then have a nice day! The Fifa World Cup offers a perfect opportunity to compare the often very negative image of Russia we in the West are conveyed by the media with the reality on the ground. Many Russians are delighted at the prospect of the upcoming football festival, and are only too eager to show their best side. Anyone who travels there with an unbiased mind will encounter interest, helpfulness and hospitality everywhere they go.”

The Economist (GB) /

Dictatorships don't shoot goals

The Economist doesn't have high expectations for World Cup host Russia in the tournament:

“Autocratic regimes such as China and Russia can ruthlessly drill track-and-field athletes - indeed, the Olympic games sometimes resemble an authoritarian pageant. But dictatorships are rubbish at football, which requires more creativity and flair. The contrast between the former East and West Germany is striking. The East trained massively muscled shot-putters; the West, sublime shot-makers. Only four countries rated 'not free' by Freedom House, a charity, have qualified for this year's World Cup, and none is likely to get far.”

Politiken (DK) /

Don't let propaganda win

World Cup audiences must not forget the reality behind the scenes in Russia, Politiken urges:

“Politicians, journalists and civic initiatives that speak out against Putin are menaced, beaten, arrested or murdered. ... One would like to think that politics and sports are two different things, but we would be kidding ourselves if we thought that dictators and oppressors see the world the same way we do. An authoritarian leader like Putin is tickled pink when the world comes to him. Our answer must be to remind ourselves, and each other, what Russia really looks like - beyond the immaculate football pitches and Potemkinesque World Cup scenery.”