How Russia Won The Bid For The 2018 World Cup | The Russia Desk | NowThis

You might prefer your World Cup football
without politics. But when the host country is
as globally polarizing as Russia in 2018, you better believe we’re gonna have to
talk about some politics. This week, we are going to dive into the fascinating story of how Russia landed the 2018 World Cup, the investigations into alleged corruption around it, how it actually involves the same guy
responsible for rumors of a Trump pee tape, former British intelligence officer
Christopher Steele — yes, there is a common thread there — we’re also going to talk to a journalist who lived in Russia for many years, who covers corruption, and ask him what else we should know about the World Cup. Plus, we’ll talk about why human rights activists are calling for a boycott of
the game ceremonies. But first — how does a country like Russia, currently under so many sanctions from various nations, land a beloved international sporting event like the World Cup? Well, for one, it was decided
back in 2010, by the International Federation for Association Football, FIFA. And Russia in 2010 was different than Russia now. Putin wasn’t the president; he was taking his turn as Prime Minister; they hadn’t yet invaded Ukraine; and the world hadn’t yet seen the massive corruption of the 2014 Sochi Olympics. You could make a better case for awarding them the Cup back then. Except, while things may be far worse politically now, there were allegations of corruption going on then. PUTIN: Welcome to Russia. This is how it works: countries submit bids to host the World Cup many years in
advance, and the decide who wins. In this case, Russia was competing against Now, two of those 24 members were suspended from voting after it was revealed in an undercover journalism operation that they were offering to
sell their votes. So, 22 FIFA executive members voted, and Russia won the 2018 World Cup. Sepp Blatter was FIFA president at the time, and he hailed it as bringing the World Cup to ‘new lands,’ as a tournament had never been
held in Russia or an Eastern European country before. This is where Christopher Steele comes in. His consulting firm was hired by the Football Association in England to investigate possible corruption in FIFA in 2010. Steele had worked undercover as an MI6 agent in Moscow for years before this, and he was hired because of his expertise in the region. England wanted that World Cup bid badly, and many officials were suspicious about Russia’s bid. Long before he prepared the dossier on Donald Trump that included allegations of a pee tape, Steele produced a dossier on alleged corruption in FIFA. And he handed it to the U.S. FBI as well as England, kicking off a years-long
investigation that ultimately took down nine FIFA officials in 2015. There was Blatter himself was not indicted in the case, but he was eventually banned from
taking part in any FIFA activities for 6 years, given that he was president of
the organization when all of this was going on. So Steele’s solid research for the FBI in that case is actually what earned him a
trusted reputation in the U.S. intelligence community, which would come back many years later, in 2016, with the Trump dossier. FIFA conducted an internal
investigation into the Russian bid process, and ultimately concluded that
nothing shady happened. But that report, led by American lawyer Michael Garcia, was full of holes and essentially buried by FIFA. The computers that were used by
Russians during the bid were so many documents were never even seen. The Russian bid team also said certain emails were Some people refused to be interviewed for the investigation. Now, Garcia says he did his best, interviewing dozens of witnesses and
producing a 400-page report, but FIFA decided not to publish said report and instead released a summary that Garcia says erroneously misrepresented his
findings. After trying to get FIFA to publish the whole thing, and being met with multiple refusals, Garcia resigned from FIFA, and he’s been banned from
entering Russia. So we may never know the full extent of what happened in Russia’s bid for the World Cup, but we know that they got it. And that is viewed as a victory for their national image by many, no matter what corrupt process might
have led there. It’s for this reason and more that many politics and human rights observers are calling on a boycott of the opening ceremony. In previous World Cups in the 90s, FIFA would actually sanction countries for what they called For example, they banned the former Yugoslavia from the 1994 World Cup and the ’92 Euros because of international sanctions placed on the countries at that time due to government and military aggression. Now, sanctioned, aggressive countries get to host the World Cup. And organizations like Human
Rights Watch are also calling for an opening ceremony boycott based on
Russia’s ongoing military activities in Syria. I spoke to journalist and author
Oliver Bullough, who lived in Russia for many years, and who investigates
corruption, about the details. He recently wrote an article for GQ all about this, which we’ll drop a link to in the comments. My name is Oliver Bullough, I’m a Russianist, a former Soviet Unionist, I’m not a football fan, but I do write a
lot about corruption and so I approached writing about the
World Cup not from the point of view of football or soccer, but more from the
point of view of how Russia won the right to host the tournament — which, is
you know, just about the biggest sporting occasion of the year. And having won the
tournament, how it then went about making sure that the tournament was going to go
ahead to Putin’s liking. And this being Russia, that’s a story of money, lots of money, a story primarily of money going to Putin’s friends or people who are useful to Mr. Putin. And it’s also a story about violence. Football hooligans, obviously, and people who threaten to embarrass Mr. Putin and Mr. Putin’s friends being dissuaded from doing so. So, we really shouldn’t put much
stock into FIFA’s report where they seem to conclude that Russia was cleared of
any wrongdoing? Well I mean, I think, you know, to be fair to them, you know, the FIFA investigators kind of did what they could with what they had, where they were, right. I mean, they weren’t given any information and they weren’t really given any access, so you know they weren’t — I mean, this isn’t Robert Mueller we’re talking about. They didn’t have, you know, sort of world’s finest lawyers and an FBI team of investigators to help them. They were just a few guys. [VERSHA:] I also asked Bullough how much international fans traveling to Russia need to worry about some of their more
discriminatory laws. Russians are very, very hospitable people, it is a wonderful country. I would feel very sad if anyone felt put off from going to see the country because of the idiocy of its government. Particularly worth visiting in summer when there’s a party going on, but — it is concerning. The Russian government has done nothing, really, to shut down concerns about the behavior of these sort of extra paramilitary, they call themselves ‘Cossacks,’ they’re not really Cossacks, they’re just thugs who pretend
to be, who dignify themselves with this name, the government’s done very little to reign them in or to shut down debate
that they could be used against people, LGBT people or whoever,
who show some form of dissent with the lines of the authorities. So, I hope it’ll be okay, but to be honest, I wouldn’t recommend gay friends of mine waltzing around holding hands at the moment in Russia. If you thought the World Cup drama ended here, well, in 2022. Another country known for its human rights abuses. Think of this as part one of the
corruption story in Russia involving the World Cup. Next time, we’ll get into just how Putin uses massive international events like the Winter Olympics and the
World Cup to award contracts, and therefore money, to his oligarch friends. There’s a secondary level of corruption which is corruption in the
construction of the stadiums. You know that the stadium where England will be
playing their first match in Volgograd and then they’re also playing later in
Nizhny Novgorod, both of those stadiums were built by one of Putin’s best friends, Gennady Timchenko. You know, this is standard in Russia, major infrastructure public projects are awarded to Putin’s close friends. We saw it in the Sochi Olympics, you see it with the bridge they’ve built to Crimea. You know, it’s standard and so that again is another reason why they
wanted the tournament. It’s not just about, you know, Putin getting to show off on the world’s biggest stage, it’s also about his friends making a load of money. Welcome to Russia.

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