What You Can Get Away With » russia

One of the small highlights of the recent World Cup for me was the BBC showing the official FIFA World Cup films on BBC Two on weekend mornings. In the 1982 film – G’Ole! – there’s a moment near the end when the camera pans over the crowd for the final and shows a Colombia 1986 banner, the only time that tournament ever appeared on camera.

Colombia had been selected to host the 1986 World Cup but withdrew from hosting later in 1982 because of a host of domestic and economic problems. In the words of President Betancur: “We have a lot of things to do here and there is not enough time to attend to the extravagances of Fifa and its members.” Colombia 1986 is the only time a country has not hosted the World Cup after being awarded it.

Luckily for FIFA, there do still remain several countries willing to attend to their extravagances, and indeed will compete to provide more and more extravagances in order to get to host the World Cup. That’s why there was heated bidding for the rights to stage the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, and why some have cried foul after they were awarded to Russia and Qatar. Since they were awarded, there’s been constant criticism of the Qatar 2022 decision, and recent events in Ukraine have also made people question whether it’s right to host the 2018 tournament in Russia and Nick Clegg has called for it to be taken away from them.

Unlike the complaints about Qatar, the arguments given for having the 2018 World Cup are almost entirely political, based on the recent actions of the Russian Government, though they tend to ignore that world sporting bodies are generally autocratic institutions themselves and don’t really respond to that sort of argument. Despite the fact it opens up a lot of other questions – should British clubs refuse to play in Russia in UEFA tournaments? If FIFA don’t change their minds, should the home nations boycott 2018? – it’s a legitimate thing to propose.

However, if you want to scupper your entire campaign very quickly, what you shouldn’t do is this:

Talking about the situation in Ukraine, Nick Clegg raised the question on whether Russia should host the World Cup in 2018:

“He (Putin) can’t constantly push the patience of the international community beyond breaking point and still have the privilege and honour of receiving all the accolades in 2018 for being the host nation of the World Cup.”

In light of Russia’s actions, one option could be to bring the World Cup to England instead.

If you agree, sign this petition.

We the undersigned call on England to host the 2018 World Cup instead of Russia.

That’s currently on the Lib Dem website, and suddenly turns it from legitimate concerns about Russia to one of the countries beaten by Russia in the 2018 bidding trying to get revenge. It weakens the case against Russia hosting it by associating it with England getting the tournament instead and thus makes it into a contest of two countries, not weighing up the merits of one.

The reason I brought up Colombia 1986 at the start of this post was because when the decision was made to not have the World Cup there, it wasn’t because another country had stepped forward and said ‘we’ll do it instead’. The decision to not host the tournament and the decision of the location of the replacement were separate, and if FIFA were to decide to take it from Russia, there’d surely be an open process (well, open by FIFA standards) to decide the replacement, as happened for 1986 (with Mexico selected over the USA and Canada). One could also look at the ongoing dispute over Qatar 2022, where the USA (probably the most likely location for it if it doesn’t happen in Qatar) are being very careful not to put themselves forward as the alternative, but instead are keeping the debate about whether it should be in Qatar at all.

(I’d also question if England was able to host the tournament on such short notice, given the suggested new stadiums and expansions proposed in the original bid. If Russia were to lose it, and it was to stay within Europe, the most logical new host would likely be France, given the work they’re currently doing for Euro 2016.)

This might just be an overenthusiastic staffer at Great George Street getting carried away and starting off a petition without thinking about it, but it’s a huge own goal. If you want to make the case against Russia, you should do that, and not confuse the issue by trying to fly an England flag at the same time.

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“The Bradford Earthquake”: How Bradford West was won – Excellent report by Lewis Baston for Democratic Audit on the by-election that sent George Galloway back to Parliament. Essential reading for anyone interested in British politics.
Nicholas Stern: ‘I got it wrong on climate change – it’s far, far worse’ – so, can we begin the official panic yet?
It Takes Planning, Caution to Avoid Being ‘It’ – What happens when you keep playing a game of tag for years after you left school.
‘Only a Phase’: How Diplomats Misjudged Hitler’s Rise - A look at some of the communications ambassadors to Germany were sending back to their governments in 1933.
For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II – Fascinating tale of a Russian family who fled to the taiga to avoid Stalinist purges of the religious, then remained in complete isolation for forty years.

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And a majority that aren’t election-related.

Electoral Services: I know they’re only doing their job, but… – Jennie Rigg on the last-minute rush to get nomination papers in, which many people who’ve been candidate and/or agents will read with a few knowing nods.
How to write a generic SF novel - Paul McAuley provides some useful advice: “No matter how technologically advanced your future society might be, its sociology and economics are basically those of the seventeenth century. Also its battle tactics.”
BNP Candidates 2011 – Lancaster Unity has discovered there’s a dramatic fall in the number of candidates the BNP are standing in local elections this year, though there is a rise in former BNP candidates standing for other nationalist parties.
Russian bloggers accuse authorities of cyberwar – Twenty years ago, which of these things would have seemed the most weird: the existence of sites like LiveJournal, Russian democracy or DDOS attacks?
72 mandatory pitstops per race – Duncan Stephen has a sneak preview of the latest plans to improve Formula 1

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The whole wide world in just five links

Twenty reasons why it’s kicking off everywhere – Newsnight’s Paul Mason looks at some of the reasons for the sudden wave of protests around the world
Novels I will not write: Jesus wants his kidney back – Charles Stross comes up with some wonderful ideas for books that won’t happen: “wouldn’t it be fun to have a vampire yarn revolving around a hapless journalist who is in demand because he pisses holy water?”
We Have Always Been At War With Sir Winston Churchill – Stable and Principled on the latest banging of the drums against the Human Rights Act
It’s my dream job! – Anton Vowl applies for a job at the Daily Mail…but I think my application has a better chance of success
Peter Pomerantsev’s Diary – An inside look at how TV is produced in Russia, and why Western models of reality TV don’t work well there (via)

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