UEFA Euro 2012 and the London Olympics: Lessons for Russia

It is clear that sports facilities in Sochi and London have different pay-off periods and that in London the return on investment is faster. Sochi may have problems in this respect but we are ready to provide financial backing. In terms of prestige the Olympics in Sochi mean probably even more for us than the London Games did for the UK.

Valdaiclub.com interview with Ruslan Grinberg, Director of the Institute of Economics, Russian Academy of Sciences.

What lessons could we learn from the London Olympics to help us prepare for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi? I mean first of all the economy and finance, the infrastructure, organization and security.

The Winter Games are very different from the Summer Olympics in these aspects. Another big difference is that London is the capital of a major industrialized country. This is the third time the Olympics were held in London, which is unprecedented. I think they did a brilliant job. Athletes felt very comfortable there and the good weather was an added bonus.

However, the London Olympics had several problems. First, the expected numbers of visitors were too high. Second, VIPs had bought many good seats but never turned up to watch the competitions. This is a perennial issue but this time their absence was especially conspicuous.

Third, London is a very liberal multi-ethnic city and this is why it was particularly difficult for the Brits to combine freedoms with tougher security. I think it is very important for us to study this experience thoroughly. Sochi is a calm city but it is situated close to troubled areas.

The subtleties of the infrastructure are a special issue. It is clear that sports facilities in Sochi and London have different pay-off periods and that in London the return on investment is faster. Sochi may have problems in this respect but we are ready to provide financial backing. In terms of prestige the Olympics in Sochi mean probably even more for us than the London Games did for the UK.

The organizers report that security at the Sochi Games will cost a record $2billion. In 2010, Vancouver spent $900 million for this purpose. Will these funds be allocated by the Olympic Committee or will the federal budget bear this heavy burden alone?

I’m convinced that a lion’s share of this burden or even all of it will be borne by the federal budget. That is the only way.

Many facilities in London were built for the Games and will be disassembled. Will Sochi use such high-tech construction? Does it reduce the cost of facilities?

It would be good if we could dismantle some facilities after the Olympics but I don’t think this is the plan. In Sochi all facilities will be built for a long time to come. Obviously, long-term facilities cost more than those that will be dismantled.

How much is the life of residents disrupted when their city is getting ready for a major sports competition? To what extent is this disruption justified?

I think everything depends on your attitude to the Olympic Games. For me personally they are a big holiday, starting with the Melbourne Games in 1956. I even devoted my first composition at school to them. Since then I’ve watched the Olympics with great interest and sometimes with sadness. I didn’t even expect to be so nervous this year.

The residents of a city getting ready for major sports events have traffic problems but that’s about it. I think London successfully resolved this issue – at any rate, nobody complained. In general, occasional headaches are always a possibility. It is simply impossible to organize a big event and make everyone happy. I think there were no major disruptions and no human rights violations in London.

Moscow was empty in 1980. Our regime was so “extra-democratic” that many people were ousted from the capital against their will; no visitors were allowed to come to Moscow for two weeks or even more. It was the purest form of communism for two or three weeks. I remember how Finnish sausage appeared in the shops for the first time. It was incredibly tasty then.

In general, I think that if your team wins from time to time, you forget about any inconveniences but if it loses, this is very sad.

All recent Olympics were unprofitable. Why do countries fight so hard for the right to host major sports competitions, such as the Olympics or world and European football championships?

That’s true. In general, they don’t bring in any profits although some companies gain on ads. Public interest does not necessarily imply making a profit. In this case it is expressed in an opportunity to show off the country, its culture and sports achievements to the entire world.

It is very important to make the Olympic capital appealing since there is constant competition and every little detail gets a rating. London is a metropolis of global importance. It is famous and attractive to wealthy people all over the world. Britain’s financial industry ensures public prosperity. Plus, Britain has a very powerful judicial system with solid traditions and a great reputation. No wonder people and companies from all over the world prefer to have their legal proceedings in London.

Politically, the opportunity to show your country as a civilized place with an attractive lifestyle is also important. The Brits did an excellent job with the opening ceremony, having shown their entire national history to several billion people. Who’d be able to do it like that? Money attracts money and showing the image of an attractive place for life and work is a great opportunity. Therefore, financial gain from major sports contests is not the most important consideration. It isn’t necessary to make a profit on them. Of course, they are a burden for the budget, all the more so when public debt is growing – in Britain as well. People love spectacles. In this sense, little has changed since Ancient Greece and Rome. Bread and circuses! This is a constant factor in social history and those who do it well receive more advantages.

What do you think Russia could borrow from the experience of the recent UEFA Euro-2012 in Poland and Ukraine in view of the 2018 FIFA World Cup?

The main thing is to make sure our team is in excellent shape. This should be a major concern. I don’t know how bad the Poles feel about their team’s failure but we shouldn’t repeat this sad experience.

First, we must pay more attention to young people who have the potential to become good players. Second, we have no good stadiums but we can build them over time.

Football hooligans are also a cause for concern. Preventive measures are a must. The police should identify potential troublemakers. This problem may grow worse, considering Europe’s strong xenophobia. We should pay due attention to this problem although a football cup is much easier to organize than the Olympics.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.