FIFA have announced that Russia will host the 2018 World Cup!
The decision to award the first Russian World Cup Tournament, coming just a couple of years after Russia won the right to host the 2014 Olympics in Sochi demonstrates that Russia has been able to convince the world that it is ready to host major sporting events – there are no bigger world sporting events than the Olympics and the Football World Cup. The test now, for Russia, will be to prove the doubters wrong, and host two spectacular tournaments that make the rest of the world green with envy!
The World Cup voting
FIFA’s decision, announced this afternoon in Zurich, comes as a bit of a surprise to many. The voting was actually pretty decisive, though – Russia won in the second round of voting, by a pretty hefty margin.
Although Russia’s bid was fairly strong overall, it was technically rated the weakest of the three main Word Cup bids by FIFA examiners, behind the England bid and the joint Spain / Portugal bid – the biggest problem being thought to be the massive distances that fans would need to travel and Russia’s weak and vulnerable air transport infrastructure. In many pundits’ eyes, it was the weakest of the three main bids, overall.
However, the examiners did note that Russia had promised to invest massive amounts in new football stadiums, which would leave the country with a tremendous legacy from hosting the World Cup. It seems that this must have swayed the FIFA delegates, and been a more important consideration that travel and other infrastructure problems when it came time to vote. The same considerations seem to have been key in their decision to award the following 2022 World Cup to Qatar, another developing country that would see a massive boost from hosting a World Cup.
England, many pundits favourite before the vote, received very few votes (to be precise – England received 2 votes!) and were knocked out in the first round of voting. Although you can make a good argument that England wouldn’t have been the ideal host, the number of votes that England actually received is dramatically lower than you would expect, given the evident quality of their bid. It looks like the accusations of corruption among FIFA executives by the British media may well have done irretrievable damage to the English campaign. This is sad, not just for the English bid, but for Russia too – given Russia’s reputation as a generally corrupt country, this will do nothing but fuel the flames for those critics who will claim that Russia won the right to host this World Cup by bribing FIFA officials.
Russia World Cup Format
Spanning a massive area, hosting a World Cup in Russia was never going to be an easy challenge. The Russian Football Federation have solved it with a plan that will see matches hosted in 16 stadiums spread across 13 Russian cities. The cities have been divided into four clusters, to keep group stage matches in the same geographical area, and the Russian World Cup Final will be held in the Moscow Luzhniki Stadium.
Here’s a pretty infographic from RIA Novosti to give you a graphical idea of how the World Cup will be organised:
Russian President Vladimir Putin decided not to speak in favour of Russia’s bid in Zurich – lets face it, because he didn’t want to be associated with a losing bid. So he’s now in the embarrassing position of having to rush over to Zurich. He explained his about face, unconvincingly:
“I am going to Zurich. I promised members of the Executive Committee that if the decision was made in Russia’s favor, I would certainly come to thank them personally and speak about our preparation plans.”
Putin went on to say:
“I would like to thank the members of the FIFA executive committee for their decision, that they trusted us with staging the football World Cup. I would like to assure the FIFA leadership that we will do everything possible to ensure that the 2018 World Cup is staged at a deserving level.”
What do you think? Was Russia’s success deserved? Will the Russian World Cup be a success, or will Russia struggle to host such a major tournament?