It seems eccentric, to say the least, that the FIFA selection committee chose Russia as the World Cup’s home in 2018, and all the more so as it meant overlooking perfectly serviceable countries such as Britain. (They also chose
The FIFA committee's selection looks even more bizarre when you consider that the Russians already have their hands full with the 2014 Winter Olympics, slated for the Black Sea coastal town of
It’s a tall order, given the genuinely troubled, perhaps even insuperable, state of unpreparedness at Sochi: By 2014, more than 200 new Olympics facilities need to be completed, including an entire mountaintop complex that will house ski-jumping, bobsledding, snowboarding, biathlon, a major road, and a highspeed rail link—not to mention scores of new hotels, restaurants, and sundry other infrastructure projects.
All this in a place that gets very little snow;
When I visited
The port itself needs such equipment for its repairs as the Olympics approach and, to date, nothing has been done. According to Georgian officials, the nearest functioning ports with adequate road and rail links are in
This could prove awkward, what with Russian troops still occupying parts of Georgia after the 2008 invasion. Events such as the World Cup and the Olympics inevitably act as tests of a host country's mettle and leadership, but, in this instance, the high-stakes events dovetail with Russian inadequacy and insecurity.
Russians are famously sensitive about their prestige in the world, considerably more so than about such mundane things as a comfortable income or transparent government. This has been manifestly true of the Putin era, during which the Kremlin has encouraged the public's delusions of Russian imperial grandeur while making no progress on human rights, civil liberties, media freedoms, employment, or infrastructure maintenance outside the largest cities, among other rather fundamental concerns. Virtually the entire Caucasus region from Dagestan to Ingushetia remains a dangerous and crumbling hinterland, as do any number of
Russians have been willing to suffer considerable hardships for the price of upholding their sense of eminence in the world. But FIFA and the Olympics will deliver an impartial verdict on their stature, one which neither the Kremlin nor the empire-besotted populace can repudiate.
What right do we have, the ordinary Russian might ask, to invade