April-June 2017 #2 (18)

Oh football, you are everything!

In July 1979, a year before the Olympic Games in Moscow, the Kremlin adopted a secret document.

It had a very long name, but the essence of it was simple: to make Moscow look as appealing and presentable as possible for the Olympic Games. According to the document, some Muscovites were asked to take time off and leave the city for the duration of the Games, while other “undesirables” were simply rounded up and driven outside the city borders. Only people with special permits were allowed to come to Moscow from other cities during this time period.

All of this was done not only for the sake of security, but also to make sure foreign visitors didn’t see the endless lines in front of stores, which ruined the image of the Soviet capital. In the USSR, a lot of people used to come to Moscow from other regions in order to buy products - like sausage, for example - they couldn’t purchase elsewhere. There was even a joke about it: “What is long, green and smells like sausage? It’s a long, green train that guests take out of Moscow to go back to their cities.”

During the 1980 Olympic Games, Moscow had an abundance of different kinds of food. You could purchase anything at the store, even things that were usually impossible to get - Finnish salami, different types of cheese, juice, jam and canned beer! Muscovites used to joke that 1980 was the year communism was built in Moscow. The joke was especially funny because Nikita Khrushchev famously promised to build communism by 1980 during a communist party meeting in 1960. Unfortunately, this brand of communism only lasted a little over two weeks, from July 19 to August 3, while Moscow was hosting the 1980 Summer Olympics.

Now, on the eve of the Confederations Cup and the FIFA World Cup, there is no need to make such elaborate adjustments in preparation for the event. And this isn’t just about sausages and other products, which supermarkets all over Russia are packed with these days. The thing is that Moscow has been improving for a very long time, becoming a more comfortable, clean and safe city for both local residents and tourists. The capital has plenty of new roads, new metro stations, parks and squares...Moscow is changing for the better almost every day.

No wonder that according to Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2017 list, the Russian capital is in the top 10 cities to visit. In light of this, it seems strange that some Western politicians and journalists tell stories about “aggressive Russians” and try to implore others to boycott the World Cup. On the other hand, Russia isn’t new to these accusations. It might seem strange, but some people abroad know so little about Russia that they still think bears roam the streets of Moscow! What can I say? Come and see for yourself!

Responding to my question about how confident he was that everything will go smoothly during the World Cup, Olympic Champion and Head of the Moscow Department of Sports and Tourism Nikolay Gulyayev said:

“I am sure that Moscow will host a real football festival, and it will be organized in a superb way. We have everything to make this happen: the city and sports infrastructure that work impeccably, that come together as a single unit. When I say ‘sports infrastructure,’ I mean the two new stadiums - the Luzhniki Olympic Complex and Spartak.” In the interview, which is featured in this issue, Mr. Gulyaev also said that Moscow is expecting around one million guests for the World Cup, which will take place on June 14 - July 15, 2018.

Sergo Kukhianidze

Editor in Chief

sergomrk@mail.ru

CAPITAL IDEAS

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