World Cup opens up world’s biggest country

Glory days: The era between WWII and 1990 was Russia’s sporting heyday.

Will Russia become the world’s next great adventure playground? Today the draw for the 2018 World Cup is made in Moscow. It is a chance for this mysterious country to show off its beauty.

Today, at around 3pm, England will find out how they can win the World Cup.

The draw for next summer’s tournament will be made in the Kremlin, the walled fortress at the heart of Moscow.

The 32 teams will be drawn into eight groups of four, with the final taking place on July 15th.

When Putin, not a football fan himself, decided that Russia should bid, the country’s relations with the West were good. Wealth was everywhere and the rouble was strong.

But since then Russia’s reputation has collapsed following wars in Ukraine and Syria, economic decline and the Olympic doping scandal.

Russia has still not fully established itself on the tourist trail. The country received 25 million tourists in 2016 — not many for a country of 144 million people.

What will this summer’s visitors find?

A pristine wilderness covering one eighth of the world’s land surface. The world’s longest passenger train journey. The site of the second world war’s most important battle. The world’s deepest lake. And then there are quirkier attractions: a “military Disneyland”, Russian bath-houses (“banyas”), and experiencing weightlessness at a cosmonaut training centre.

Will Russia become the world’s next tourism frontier?

Glasnost

Inevitably it will, say some. As wealth increases, so does tourism. First we discovered Spain. Then Greece. Then Bulgaria and Turkey. The world is now crying out for a new place to discover. Russia has amazing cultural and natural wealth, and, thanks to the World Cup, word will get out.

Others respond that it is wrong to talk about a corrupt, warmongering dictatorship in the same breath as a country like Spain. But moral objections to visiting Russia are just the start. The country has a reputation for being cold, gruff and miserable. One tournament will not shake that off.

You Decide

  1. Would you like to visit Russia?

Activities

  1. Come up with five words you associate with Russia. Share them with your class. Which words are most common?
  2. Design two posters. One encouraging people to visit Russia, and one encouraging people to stay away.

Some People Say...

“The Iron Curtain may be a thing of the past, but Mother Russia is as mysterious as ever.”

Robert Gottlieb

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The World Cup draw is taking place today at 3pm GMT in Moscow. This is the first time an Eastern European country, let alone Russia, has hosted the tournament.
What do we not know?
Whether the World Cup will turn the tide of how the rest of the world sees Russia, or whether all the old stereotypes will be confirmed.

Word Watch

Longest passenger train journey
The Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Vladivostok is 5,772 miles and takes nearly a week.
Most important battle
The city of Volgograd, one of the host cities next summer, used to be called Stalingrad. Nearly two million people died at the Battle of Stalingrad, which turned the tide of the second world war.
World’s deepest lake
Lake Baikal, in Eastern Siberia, holds around 22% of the world’s fresh water.

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