Moscow: Russia basked in the limelight Friday as the future first-time host of the World Cup in 2018, but media questioned how the country will pay the bill which they said could reach 50 billion dollars.
Vladimir Putin radiated confidence as he descended on Zurich for a news conference late Thursday, portraying Russia as a country on the upturn.
“When FIFA makes a decision, FIFA members think of the political conditions in the country. We have a stable political situation,” he said. “Our economy is developing rather well.”
“We have enough money. Perhaps, we will need some consultations,” Putin said in Zurich, estimating the event would cost around 10 billion dollars.
But Russian media immediately asked whether the hefty pricetag was acceptable as the country is on track to record a 4.6 percent deficit this year and already has a commitment to other extravagant projects.
“One could accept any expenses if their structure was transparent and the project’s financing controllable,” wrote Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily.
Russia is currently ranked 154th on the Transparency International’s corruption ranking.
Building just the stadiums will require 3.8 billion dollars, according to Russia’s bid. They will have to be built in farflung cities, from Yekaterinburg in the Urals to the southern regional centre of Krasnodar.
Russia’s Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said the championships would cost “much less” then the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, which Putin personally helped secure for 2014.
Most of the venues, scattered around the country thousands of kilometres from one another, would have to be built from scratch, and it is no secret that their construction will be a fraction of the massive investment needed for roads, hotels, and other infrastructure.
The required tourist infrastructure would add another 11 billion dollars, but what would make Russia really tighten its belt is the 7,711 kilometres of highways and 2,024 kilometres of railroads required by FIFA, wrote Vedomosti newspaper.
“That would cost about 35 billion dollars, using average construction prices,” the paper said. The bottom line for the event could be 50 billion dollars, it calculated.
The multibillion dollar injection would come as Russia has already spent tens of billions of dollars on similar events like the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, in 2014, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference in Vladivostok in 2012.
Those projects have already far exceeded original estimates.
“The example of the Sochi Olympics proves that whatever numbers the government gives, they should not be considered final,” Kommersant newspaper wrote on Friday.
Initial estimates put the cost of the Olympics at the already record sum of 12 billion dollars in public and private investment. Since then officials have upped the figure to 31 billion dollars, with 7.5 billion pumped into just one 48-kilometre-long road connecting skiing venues with Sochi’s airport.
The practice of securing grandiose events “looks like the policy of ancient Roman patricians, whose communication with plebians focused on giving the latter bread and circuses,” Vedomosti wrote in an editorial.
“It ended badly for everyone.”