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Russians display sporting hospitality, efficiency

Monday, July 23, 2018

The decision on December 2, 2010 of awarding Russia hosting rights for the 21st FIFA World Cup (2018) raised a number of questions. While there were the usual concerns of the infrastructural works- such as completion of new stadiums and upgrades —there were anxieties relating to security issues.

The security issues ranged from potential threats from the Islamic State and other Islamist radicals; Russian hooligans especially after their disruptive behaviour at Euro 2016 in France; spillover fighting between Russia and Ukraine and racism and xenophobia toward non-whites.

However, by the time referee Nestor Pitana blew the final whistle to end the 21st World Cup crowning France champions, Russia had already proven that all the pre-tournament concerns never saw the light of day.

According to Putin, the World Cup “helped break many stereotypes about Russia,” and “People have seen that Russia is a hospitable country, and will leave with the best feelings and memories… and will come again many times.”

My two weeks in Russia during the World Cup bears testimony to Putin’s words.

The tournament operating systems allowed for effective checks and balances especially as it related to security concerns but at the same time not infringing upon the rights of fans. If there were any issues it was dealt with in a palatable and timely manner.

It was amazing to see how the large crowds the Kazan Sporting Arena (42,000) and Luzhniki stadium (81,000) were managed before, during and after the game without undue delays, fuss and ado.

From the entry at the Sheremetyevo (SVO) airport, the hospitality provided was very satisfying.

The immigration system catered for the FAN ID visa entry into Russia and as such there were not any undue questions and hassle.

The same treatment was extended on match days in the metros and buses. The reliability of the trains and buses to and from the games was also pleasing.

Information booths were strategically placed at the main tourists’ centres such as Red Square with young persons speaking at least Russian and English providing important information about maps, the transport system, and getting around to see landmark places such as St Basil’s Cathedral; the Kremlin; Lenin’s mausoleum, the GUM, Karl Marx monument and the UNESCO heritage sites in Kazan to name a few.

Overall the Russian people were very welcoming whether it was in the tourist centres, the metros, and malls.

None of the Russians I chatted with sadly had any idea of Trinidad and Tobago and its location. "

However, they were interested in finding out more and the opportunity was taken to market the country and the region. Russia 2018 was memorable and it was worth the sports tourism experience. It is a place I will definitely like to revisit.

“I don’t feel it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning.” —Michel Foucault


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