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© RIA Novosti. Alexander Vilf

World Cup 2018 : Russia produces dream sequence

by at 02/12/2010 14:43

 

Clubbing anthem “Moscow Never Sleeps” was reworked into a perception-challenging image of what a World Cup might mean for Russian fans as the bid team made its final push for support in Zurich.

Taking the dream of young Sasha, substituted into a Luzhniki World Cup final to curl a match-winning free-kick past Italian goalkeeper Buffon’s despairing dive, it produced a view of a nation in love with football.

From bikini babes on the beaches of Sochi to ball-juggling babushkas in homely villages it presented a football crazy world somewhat removed from the day-to-day reality of top-flight games in front of half-empty stadiums.

 

From the heart

The presentation promised not to bore FIFA with facts and figures and speak from the heart, offering to debunk the old stereotype of Russia as a riddle wrapped in a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov urged FIFA to play a role in creating a new Russia.

“Without your help we will achieve our goals, but with your help we will achieve much more,” he said. “It’s going to be a completely different nation, open to the world.

“There will be new people who are brothers and sisters to the whole world.”

Recalling his childhood in frozen Chukotka, Shuvalov highlighted the passion for football he and his schoolfriends shared even as the temperature plummeted to -50C.

“We want to win. I wanted to win in those days and I want to win today,” he said. “The bruises and sometimes black eyes were the price I had to play, but now I think it was maybe the happiest time of my life.

But bid CEO Alexei Sorokin could not resist throwing in technical details, highlighting the scope of stadium development and plans to link the “Jewels of Russia” host cities with free transport for match ticket holders.

 

Artists impressions

But while the other bidders were able to show existing stadiums, Russia’s technical video largely showed building sites and computer graphics.

And in an effort to offset fears of transport chaos there was much emphasis placed on the fact that all venues are within two hours of Moscow by air.

But fans who came to Russia for the Champions League final in 2008 might raise eyebrows at claims that “hospitality is the heartbeat of the Russian soul” and suggestions that top-class hotel accommodation would be available for all fans in 2018.

 

Raising the bar

Other speakers included sports minister Vitaly Mutko and national team captain Andrei Arshavin, pictured above.

But pole vault champion Elena Isinbaeva brought a welcome contrast to the men in suits who dominated most of the presentations from all bidders.

She thanked FIFA for supporting women’s football – said to be Russia’s fastest growing sport – and coquettishly reminded the audience that more than half the world, like her, are women.

And in a surprisingly brief look at the prospective legacy Russia could leave Isinbaeva said that a World Cup in the country would be like the whole country setting a new world record with a massive leap forwards together.

 

With the final presentations complete, the bidding nations now face a nervous wait for the announcement of the winner and host of the 2018 World Cup.

 

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