Russian cities brace for World Cup
“We’re just trying to survive it”
There was a time when Russia saw prestige sporting competitions like the World Cup or the Olympics as an occasion to woo the west and seek acceptance into a club of great nations. However, times have changed, and so has Russia.
“Russia is so toxic that the Mundial [World Cup] can’t help Putin to change anything, including his image,” said Andrei Kolesnikov, a political analyst and senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Centre.
The cities are ready to brace the influx in tourists over the next couple of months. The rule with prazdniki is that they mustn’t be spoiled, not by protests, provocations, faulty planning or poor security.
“The best [Putin] can do in terms of soft power is to properly organise the championship without unpleasant episodes, especially in the security sphere, and get some pure pleasure from sports,” said Kolesnikov.
Yet, it is more than that as Russia is on high alert over the next month causing inconvenience to a lot of locals.
“I assure you we are taking every possible precaution to ensure their safety,” said the governor of Volgograd.
It wasn’t an overstatement. The city has closed streets and shut public transport for several kilometres around the stadium during games. The security measures and other preparations are so extensive that match days have been declared public holidays because no one can get to work.
Residents in one apartment block in Yekaterinburg have been told not to use their balconies, open their windows or stand near their windows on match days, in case they’re mistaken for attackers and shot by police snipers, Reuters reported.
“To be honest we’re just trying to survive it,” said Olga Khavanskaya,“ teacher in Volgograd, “There’s this feeling like the city has been ripped up from the ground and flipped over. The city looks better than I can ever recall … but I’m ready for it all to be over.”