Russia rejoices honour | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 04, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 04, 2010

Russia rejoices honour


(L) People launch lanterns in Moscow to mark Russia's victory in their bid to host the 2018 World Cup while (R) youths celebrate in Doha after Qatar was chosen to host the 2022 World Cup on Thursday. Qatar became the first Arab, Middle Eastern or Muslim country to be awarded the right to stage the showpiece event.Photo: AFP

President Dmitry Medvedev wrote "Hurray!" on his blog Thursday and his prime minister hailed both his country and FIFA as Russia rejoiced in the honour of finally being picked to stage the World Cup.
"Hurray! Victory!" Medvedev wrote in his Twitter account moments after the FIFA 2018 vote in Zurich was broadcast live on most Russian television channels.
Medvedev quickly added that all that Russia needed to do now was break its decades-long run of under-performance at the world's most-watched event.
"Now we have to really prepare the way we stage the World Cup. And, of course, put up a deserving performance," Medvedev wrote.
Arctic chills across European Russia kept most of the festivities indoors as only a few dozen braved the -25 Celsius weather to launch celebratory paper lanterns from Moscow's Sparrow Hills.
The announcement caught many Muscovites in the traditional traffic jams that choke most of this city's arteries at almost any time of day. But happy honks rose over the city at around 6:30 pm (1530 GMT) as news of the decision spread.
The Zurich vote represented a particularly big boost for Vladimir Putin -- a prime minister who staked his reputation on the event by accusing main rivals England of trying to smear FIFA executives and steal the prized bid.
Putin lavished warm words of praise on FIFA and then left for Zurich to personally thank the world football governing body for bringing the marquee event to Eastern Europe for the very first time.
"I would like to thank the members of the FIFA executive committee for their decision, that they trusted us with staging the football World Cup," Putin said in televised remarks.
"I would like to assure the FIFA leadership that we will do everything possible to ensure that the 2018 football World Cup is staged at a deserving level," Putin said before adding that he was always confident of victory.
The decision marks another personal milestone for Putin after he had already beaten the odds to bring home both the 2014 Winter Olympics and a Formula One Grand Prix.
The football bid was Putin's idea from the start and he stage-managed every turn of Russia's campaign.
"Russia does not have the sport facilities or the infrastructure to host the main football competition," Gazeta Internet newspaper admitted earlier this year. "But it does have Prime Minister Vladimir Putin."
Now Thursday's announcement only reaffirms Putin's status as a leader who delivers -- a man who puts Russia up against anything the West has to offer and wins.
"It is a great personal victory for Vladimir Putin and his team," said Carnegie Moscow Center analyst Sergei Ryabov in reference to the upcoming 2012 presidential elections that Putin -- who served as president between 2000 and 2008 -- may challenge under a constitutional quirk.
Others saw the World Cup as a chance to bring the sometimes isolated country closer to the West -- just as the Summer Olympic Games in Moscow had introduced world culture to the Soviet Union in 1980.
"This will be useful for Russia because it provides it with a new link with the West," said the Russian Academy of Sciences' Economics Institute Director Ruslan Grinberg.
But others questioned how Russia can afford such a project amid a two-year economic downturn that is only now starting to stabilise and the tens of billions of dollars already earmarked for various pre-election projects.
Business Russia trade association chief Boris Titov said the announcement marked "a recognition of the fact that Russia is economically able to carry off such projects.
"But it also means serious complications for the state budget," Titov told AFP.
Others said that most Russians might have supported Putin on this venture -- but that he had not made the decision without any form of public debate.
"The people might have supported the government on this," the oppositional Novaya Gazeta added in a commentary. "But nobody even asked us! In fact it has been a while since anyone asked us anything."

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