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The more imminent question, I think, is whether Russia will still be able to pull off the 2018 World Cup financially and economically if the new sanctions have to be maintained or even intensified for quite a while and Russia's economy plunges even deeper into recession. I mean, Russia 2018 is set to become the most expensive World Cup in history, already now at this still quite early stage. I don't know whether the money of the oligarchs and the big Russian state enterprises is endless.

In any case, it's breathtaking how much credit Russia has lost internationally in the past few months. The fact that political repressions and the anti-gay laws were the most imminent political issue regarding Russia at the start of the Sochi Games seems almost unreal and negligible now, only six months later. Putin has created huge trouble for himself and his country with that hubristic idea of invading and conquering Ukraine by other means. And still, by all what we know, Russians are applauding him albeit he could isolate the country at least on the diplomatic stage for years or even decades to come.

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I don't think Russia is as isolated as it would appear. But certainly they have done tremendous damage to their relationship China. It use to be France, Britain, USA on one side and Russia and China on the other. Now China has distanced itself from Russia.

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The thing is, that South Africa already hosted their World Cup, at only a fraction of the cost of what Putin is now proposing; to "outspend" Brazil. Now top that off with Sochi's $51 Billion pricetag, that's over $75 Billion for two of the three biggest sporting events in the world within four years. That's 1/3 of the Russian economy right there. That's a HUGE dent for ANY economy.

And yet the South Africans still managed to do it cheaper than the Germans did four years prior to their cup. So if anything, South Africa was taking the trend of overspending backworks. So quite frankly, I don't see what was your point in bringing them up (unless of course it was another one of your cheap shots against them). The spending is all relative anyway. But all of this still pales in comparison to Qatar's mind-staggering "budget" of $200 Billion for 2022. Virtually their ENTIRE economy. Go figure.

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  • 3 weeks later...
FIFA, Russia relations hit rough spot

GENEVA (AP) — Relations between FIFA and its next World Cup host, Russia, are under strain.

Two major issues have flared since July 13, when Russian state President Vladimir Putin sat next to FIFA President Sepp Blatter at the World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Control of Crimean football clubs and expensive new stadiums for FIFA's flagship tournament.

Attempts by the Russian football authorities to integrate three clubs from Crimea this season — without consent from Ukraine — have escalated tensions between the two countries' football federations, which are both members of FIFA and UEFA.

Though the game's world and European governing bodies have reason to at least warn the Russian Football Union of disciplinary action, neither has taken that step.

Blatter's view that the Putin-backed, $20 billion World Cup project of 12 stadiums would be better with 10 met with a pushback on Tuesday from Vitaly Mutko, Russia's sports minister and an elected member of FIFA's executive committee — which is chaired by Blatter.

It followed a weekend meeting between Blatter, a regular visitor to Russia, and Putin, who speaks the FIFA leader's native German fluently.

FIFA said in a brief statement that their talks in Sochi, which were not announced in advance, concerned "business related to" the 2018 World Cup.

The three-paragraph FIFA release did not specify if Blatter and Putin discussed the current stalemate in football politics over Crimean clubs.

Blatter reiterated that the Crimea matter "should be overseen by" UEFA, according to FIFA's account of the Russian trip, which included talks with Mutko and organizing committee CEO Alexey Sorokin.

FIFA's diplomacy with Russia seems restrained compared with its typically strict enforcement of rules that prohibit government interference in how football federations manage their affairs.

In other cases, FIFA has publicly set deadlines for national governments or courts to withdraw their threats or rulings. If not, FIFA suspends a country's teams and officials from international matches and meetings until football order is restored.

It is possible that the Russian Football Union acted alone — without government advice — when it announced last month that Crimean clubs SKChF Sevastopol, Tavria Simferopol and Zhemchuzhina Yalta had been added to the Russian third-tier league. The clubs left the Ukrainian league after last season but their transfer to Russia has not been approved by UEFA, which has authority over FIFA on purely European disputes.

When those clubs played their first competitive fixtures last week, in Russian Cup preliminary rounds, Ukrainian football authorities protested to UEFA and FIFA demanding action.

The Crimean clubs issue has been clear since March, when a disputed referendum supported the region's annexation by the Russian state.

Still, the football problem has lingered beyond the Brazil-hosted World Cup and into the new season with Russia on the clock as upcoming host.

Top Russian clubs have even raised concern UEFA could be forced to suspend them from the Champions League and Europa League.

A solution could be found in Monaco next week when all parties will gather on the sidelines of the Champions League group-stage draw. That draw could include Zenit St. Petersburg, owned by Russian industrial giant Gazprom — a top-tier Champions league sponsor — and which counts Mutko among former presidents.

UEFA has publicly expressed hope that the Russian and Ukrainian federations will find a compromise.

"If they would come up with a joint proposal that would be a very nice signal," UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino said this month, without suggesting which side might concede ground. "Football sometimes makes miracles."

Meanwhile, the question of Russia's World Cup stadiums was on the agenda in Sochi, according to FIFA.

Blatter suggested "a possible reduction in the number of venues for the 2018 FIFA World Cup as well as matters linked to the capacity of the arenas."

Mutko responded Tuesday, defending the plan agreed with FIFA two years ago.

"The conception, under which 12 stadiums in 11 cities will host World Cup matches, is not being changed," Mutko said, according to the ITAR-Tass agency. "FIFA recommends 10 stadiums in nine cities, including two arenas in Moscow."

A final decision might be made when FIFA's executive committee next meets Sept. 25-26 in Zurich.

The once certainty is that the international mood about a World Cup in Russia has clearly changed since Brazil hosted a better-than-expected World Cup.

The shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet in eastern Ukraine last month, suspected to involve pro-Russian separatists, fueled calls from western lawmakers for FIFA to move the tournament elsewhere.

Blatter has dismissed those calls, and was joined by UEFA President Michel Platini. UEFA must also decide on Sept. 19 whether to choose St. Petersburg as a host for 2020 European Championship matches.

For now, Russia seems too big in world football to fail.



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Putin opens 2018 World Cup Stadium

Russia's newest completed World Cup stadium, the Otkrytie Arena, in Moscow, was opened by the country's President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.

The stadium, in the north west of the Russian capital, will be home to the city's famous Spartak club and will host matches at the 2018 World Cup finals.

Putin arrived by helicopter, accompanied by the Russian Minister for Sport, Vitaly Mutko, the mayor of Moscow, Sergey Sobyanin, and Leonid Fedun, the owner of Spartak Moscow, who funded the stadium.

Russia's head of state was given a tour of the arena, which currently holds 42 000. He also met Spartak veterans and youth players.

Before leaving, Putin signed a football, which will be placed in the club's museum.

"This stadium is fit for one of the most loved clubs in Russia," said Putin. "The construction of sporting stadia like this helps to push development within the country."

The stadium took seven years to build and cost about 15 billion roubles ($415.17 million).

The capacity can be increased to 45 000, which soccer's world governing body Fifa would prefer. The stadium will also host Confederations Cup matches in 2017.

The first game at Spartak's new stadium will be on September 5 when the club will play a friendly against Red Star Belgrade.

© Reuters


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Russia 2018 Official Emblem to be unveiled on 28 October

The 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Local Organising Committee (LOC) and FIFA will unveil the Official Emblem of Russia 2018 at a ceremony in Moscow on 28 October 2014.

The Official Emblem is the core element of the Russia 2018 brand and the ceremony marks one of the crucial stages for the LOC on the road to 2018. Over the next four years, for millions of fans around the world, it will become a symbol of the tournament’s values and traditions, and of the distinctive character of Russia as the host nation.

“The emblem is the visual representation of the tournament. Winning the right to host the FIFA World Cup was a dream come true for millions of Russians. To creatively capture the essence of this remarkable historic moment inspiration was drawn from both Russia’s rich artistic tradition and its history of bold achievement and innovation,” said the Chairman of the Russia 2018 LOC, Vitaly Mutko. “I hope that fans around the world will appreciate and love the Russia 2018 Emblem.”


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Emblem launch LIVE on FIFA.com

With four years to go until the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, the next major milestone will be reached on Tuesday 28 October as the Official Emblem is unveiled in Moscow.

FIFA President Joseph Blatter and Secretary General Jérôme Valcke will reveal the emblem during the Evening Urgant talk show in Russia’s capital city on Tuesday night, together with Vitaly Mutko, Chairman of the Local Organising Committee, and Fabio Cannavaro, captain of Italy’s 2006 World Cup winning side.

Football fans around the world can follow proceedings LIVE as FIFA.com broadcasts the show via an online video stream from 21:30 CET on Tuesday evening. Over the next four years, the emblem will become a symbol of both the values and traditions of the tournament and of the distinctive character of host nation Russia.


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