World Cup beauty and outrage takes on the dizzying oddity of Russia | Barney Ronay

by Theguardian

Football

Over the next five weeks the greatest show on earth will again show it has the power to enthral, kicking aside Fifa’s tarnished reputation and the murkiness of Vladimir Putin’s regime

Welcome, once again, to the world. Eight years, $19bn and two terms in the glorious 100-year rule of Vladimir Putin in the making, the 2018 World Cup in Russia is upon us. This has been a fittingly Soviet-scale construction project, taking in eight new superstadiums, thousands of miles of new roads and 53,000 civilian volunteers trained in the arts of pointing, waving and – toughest and most Russian of all – smiling at strangers.

As ever the greatest show on earth carries its own irresistible heat before the tournament opener on Thursday night. The World Cup may be compromised by greed and murkiness. Fifa may have become a kind of floating corporate city state, orbiting the globe, planting its great clanking tentacles down among the ripest pastures. But as preparations thrummed up through the gears in Moscow on Wednesday there was a familiar sense of clarity, of that background hum beginning to die away.

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