World Cup shows Russia in a good light around the world
The world got a much more accurate view of Russia than is the norm in western media
Helena Perroud, interviewed in Boulevard Voltaire
Because of the football World Cup, since June 14 the world’s klieg lights are spotlighting Russia.
At the microphone of Boulevard Voltaire, Helena Perroud explains how this sporting event makes it possible to discover an unknown side of the country.
The football world cup organized by Russia is coming to an end.
It stirred a lot of debates, especially around Russia’s ability to organize it in good conditions.
In your view, did Vladimir Putin pull it off?
It seems to me that in the general opinion the World Cup is going very well. I note that the fans were able to enter Russia without a visa. This is a major innovation, including in relation to the Sochi Olympics. And these passports even have a little mention “no to racism,” or something in that sense.
For the moment, there have been no incidents and Russia has shown that it is capable of organizing a competition of this level in eleven different cities. This is much more complicated than organizing the Sochi Olympics. In addition, the football world cup lasts twice as long as the Olympic Games, one month against 15 days.
The record is very positive from an organizational point of view. Beyond this organizational capacity, there is a question of image. This is called in good French “Soft Power.” [Translator note: “Soft Power” is in the French original.]
Hooliganism was a real issue at the start of the World Cup. We know the fervor of Russian fans especially when it comes to sports.
A priori, the instructions were respected and there was, a priori, no case of racist action of Russian hooligans.
If hooliganism unfortunately exists in the sport in Russia, it exists also elsewhere on the planet. However, not only has there been no case, but there has been a total openness on the part of the Russians to very diverse populations. This allowed the Russians to give foreigners a much more accurate view of Russia than is usually seen through Western media.
The eleven cities that hosted these matches are located in very different regions of Russia. The Russians have shown in this way their own ethnic, cultural and religious diversity.
The city of Kazan, for example, which hosted the first match of the French team, has been a Muslim town for a very long time. The Russians have had this ethnic diversity on their territory for ages. But this facet of Russia is very little known to Westerners.
And if a multicultural nation has hosted a football world cup in recent years, it is Russia.
From a more international and less sporting point of view, it was also an opportunity for Russia to be at the center of the international news.
This allowed Vladimir Putin to show an image of his country the West was simply not accustomed to.
Did Vladimir Putin score political “goals” during this World Cup?
On the international level, it’s obvious.
A large number of heads of state made the trip to Moscow, to St. Petersburg, such as Emmanuel Macron for the semi finals.
Spotlights from around the world are focused on Russia since June 14th. A football world cup is obviously not just a sporting event, but it is also a major diplomatic event.
There is also a purely national interest that Putin expresses quite freely and very regularly with foreign interlocutors and his own compatriots. Putin needs to develop the practice of sport in his country. Very honestly football was not a Russian national sport compared, for instance, to ice hockey.
We must not forget the reality of the Russian climate. To have a green grass 12 months out of 12 everywhere in the country, is simply impossible.
The World Cup allowed for the completion of gigantic work at least in the eleven cities that hosted the World Cup and, by sophisticated techniques, to ensure a green grass 12 months out of 12 in these stadiums.
Putin constantly insists on the need to have a healthy population. It is particularly aimed at the male population more tempted than the female population to smoke, drink, or use drugs. Putin constantly says that sport has the virtue of discouraging all these practices.