Western media coverage on Russian 2018 World Cup
The FIFA choice for Russia to host the 2010 world cup has spawned an avalanche articles bashing Russia in European newspapers. It was no surprise that tabloids like the British Sun expressed their fury with headlines referring to Russia as a mafia state and Putin and Blatter as mafia dons. Incorrect and tendentious reports in "quality" newspapers seems to be a new trend however.
Reports published on WikiLeaks a week before the FIFA 2018 WC decision revealed that the US view Russia as a mafia state and compare Putin and Medvedev to Batman and Robin. Allegations of corrupt FIFA officials were making headlines around the world at the same time. So it is no surprise that the decision to award the 2018 WC to Russia and the 2022 WC to Qatar received wide spread criticism in the global media. Much of the criticism on human rights violation, corruption, influence of organized crime, intolerance off minorities and wide spread poverty versus extreme wealth in Russia can simply not be denied. Tendentiuos is the way Russia is portrayed as the grey country where noting has changed since the Soviet era. Simular photos are printed in many newspapaers showing shabby decayed cities often with an old Lenin statue in the background. On example is an article in NRC Next, a quality newspaper in the Netherlands, published the day after FIFA awared the 2018 WC to Russia.
The article in NRC Next expresses severe doubts that Russia will be able to successfully organize the 2018 WC, arguing that the country is a mess and that nothing has changed since the USSR. Three photos are used to magnify the portrayed image of Russia as a grey and dirty country where nothing gets done. The photos used are all from Kaliningrad, one of the cities where the 2018 WC will be played. The main image shows a Lenin statue and a half finished church on some square. The church on this photo is the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour on Ploshchad Pobedy (Victory Square) in the centre of Kaliningrad. The picture used by the newspaper is an old photo however because the square already looked very different in 2006 when Comtourist visited Kaliningrad. Victory Square in Kaliningrad is actually prove that things do change in Russia, nowadays it is a popular square where local come to relax and go to church. The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is an example of modernized variety of the Russo-Byzantine style and is the biggest church in Kaliningrad.
The first picture shows how the Dutch newspaper portrayed Kaliningrad, the second picture shows what it actually looks like. The chosen picture combined with the header: "In eight year the WC football will come to an authoritarian country where nothing changes" is a clear example of tendentious reporting by the media. The photo with the Lenin statue was probably chosen for the contrast it captures. A Lenin statue with a seemingly never finished church in the background as a synonym for modern day Russia. The media should by all means be critical and report on human rights violation, corruption and other crimes committed by countries, but must stick to facts to remain credible. Many newspapers printed similar pictures of a backward Russia to support their negative portrayal off the country. This article in NRC Next proves that readers must be very sceptical and assume that newspapers articles about Russia are often biased and tendentious.