Europe

Russian media assess 2018 scoop

Russian state TV has celebrated Russia's winning 2018 World Cup bid but sections of the country's press took a more sober view of the challenges ahead.

State TV channel Rossiya 1 opened its main evening bulletin on Thursday with the newsreaders' desk emblazoned with the words "Football is ours!"

"Russia won by a big margin," noted one of the presenters. "Our country is hosting a tournament at this level for the first time in its history."

Over on Channel 1, another state channel, correspondent Ivan Blagoi spoke of "a new page being opened in the history of Russian football".

On NTV - owned by gas giant Gazprom - a correspondent said "The dream has come true". "A miracle will be taking place in eight years' time," he added.

'Failed to score'

Eyeing Russia's rivals, Rossiya 1 correspondent Mikhail Antonov said: "[England's David] Beckham made it look as if he had once again failed to score the decisive penalty."

Russia "defeated the current world champions [Spain], the runners-up [the Netherlands] and the very homeland of football [England]", he concluded.

On Channel 1, Mr Blagoi was particularly scathing of the England bid. It was knocked out in the first round of voting despite England sending a "whole landing party" to Zurich, he said.

"At least some part in this was played by the dirty information campaign waged by the British media," Mr Blagoi added, in an apparent reference to corruption allegations against Fifa officials made ahead of the vote by the BBC's Panorama programme.

On NTV, correspondent Konstantin Goldentsvayg said the Russian bid had won because its appeal came "from the heart... rather than from business plans".

'Exorbitant'

Writing in the liberal newspaper Kommersant, Alexei Dospekhov said: "For Russia this could become the most expensive and challenging project in its history, even more expensive and challenging than the 2014 Sochi Olympics."

In the business daily Vedomosti, Dmitry Simakov was even less impressed, suggesting the total cost of the event would be $50bn - twice the amount estimated by the government.

"The price is exorbitant," he fumed. "All this resembles the policy of Roman patricians whose communication with the plebs was limited to providing the latter with bread and circuses. It all ended rather tragically."

Another article in Kommersant, by Stanislav Minin, was more upbeat, saying the competition would be "a stimulus for modernizing football facilities and football culture", even if Russian could "save billions" by not hosting it.

But he was also concerned about the "opportunities for corruption any large-scale project in Russia can potentially create".

'Tap the oligarchs'

On the liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy, commentator Anton Orekh acidly wondered how Russia would cope with the challenge of improving its famously rickety infrastructure.

"Russia has traditionally had two problems: fools and roads," he said.

"These problems seemed eternal, forever insoluble. And now it turns out that in a mere eight years we shall have to, if not get rid of fools, then at least sort out our roads."

But he was at least gladdened by the prospect of Russia's oligarchs being tapped to help pay for the project.

"As for who I really feel sorry for, it is our poor rich oligarchs," he said. "Yet, business should be socially responsible, shouldn't it? So let them stage a festivity for the people. I am happy."

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