Vanity rubs with poverty at £8bn World Cup

Eyesore: Yekaterinburg’s ground has a temporary stand as renovation was not finished in time.

Is hosting the World Cup worth it? Russia’s World Cup looks set to be the most expensive of all time. Organisers hope it will reboot the country’s economy, but many remain unconvinced.

A walk through the centre of Moscow gives the impression that Russia is a country of limitless wealth. Sparkling new glass buildings rise up on every corner. The wealth of the oligarchs is everywhere.

Vladimir Putin announced that he would set aside £15 billion for Russia to host the World Cup. This might seem small, especially when the budget was slashed to £8 billion a few years later.

But large parts of Russia are very poor - places where £8bn really is a lot of money. The average monthly wage is about £458, or a little under £15 per day.

Where has the £8 billion gone? The biggest outlay has been on stadiums. Of the 12 grounds being used for the World Cup, ten are brand new and the others have being completely renovated.

Building big grounds in Moscow and St Petersburg makes sense

But what will happen to the stadium in, for example, Kaliningrad? The local team, Baltika, average crowds of 4,000, yet the new stadium has a capacity of 35,212.

This is a pressing concern. Even Brazil has struggled to find uses for three of the state-of-the-art grounds it built for the 2014 World Cup.

Is hosting big sporting tournaments worth it?

White elephants

Yes, say some. The World Cup is a huge once-in-a-lifetime party for the host nation, and these things are worth spending lots of money on. These concerns always melt away when the tournament is a success. And it is good value for money: infrastructure improves; tourists come - and many will return.

Think how much better that money could be spent, reply others. It could be given to the 20 million Russians below the poverty line; it could solve Russia’s disastrous opioid crisis. And for repressive countries like Russia and Qatar, hosting World Cups simply highlights their deficiencies. It is a waste of money.

You Decide

  1. Is hosting the World Cup worth the money?


  1. List five requirements you think a World Cup host country needs to have.

Some People Say...

“Sport is all about money.”

Lynn Samuels

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Russia has spent an estimated £8 billion on hosting the 2018 World Cup. It is the most expensive World Cup ever held. Much of the money was spent on brand new stadiums to host the matches.
What do we not know?
Whether the problems experienced by South Africa and Brazil in the last two World Cups, and possibly Russia, will ever dampen countries’ desire to host the World Cup.

Word Watch

The Russian capital is ranked as one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in.
An exclave wedged between Lithuania and Poland. An exclave is a territory that is entirely surrounded by other countries and is detached from the rest of the country.
Russia’s disastrous opioid crisis
Russia has an estimated 2.5 million heroin addicts - far more than any other country in the world.
It is estimated that over 1,500 badly paid labourers have died during construction of the 2022 World Cup’s stadiums.

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