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2 Jul, 2019 14:46

Like a Hitchcock film: Recording of birds screeching in AGONY terrifies neighbors of World Cup arena

Like a Hitchcock film: Recording of birds screeching in AGONY terrifies neighbors of World Cup arena

The stadium built in St. Petersburg for the 2018 FIFA World Cup has an unofficial mascot, the cormorant, who was scapegoated two years ago by the city administration. Last week, the iconic bird took its revenge on the city.

In case you’re wondering what sport arenas and fish-eating birds have in common, don’t be puzzled. The connection is very local. In 2017, builders were racing against time to complete the Gazprom Arena in time to host the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and, later, the FIFA World Cup. One problem they were struggling with was the retractable roof, which continued to leak.

Enter Deputy Governor Igor Albin, who pointed the finger at a culprit: “You know, there is this famous bird, the cormorant, which can tear roof cover with its powerful beak. We need a comprehensive plan for protection against birds, like in airports,” he explained.

Cormorant, or “baklan” in Russian, is also a slang word for a not-too-bright person, so it’s understandable why the excuse quickly went viral and became a meme in St. Petersburg. Some wrote sarcastic poems about the winged menace and photoshopped cormorants into pictures of the venue. Others called for it to be made the mascot of the arena. The city official admitted after the World Cup was over that his explanation was pure fiction, but one can’t just kill an urban legend.

Last Saturday, the cormorant had a sort of revenge against St. Petersburg. People living near the arena reported hearing hellish screeches emanating from it. Some were really upset.

“Kids can’t go to sleep or they wake up and ask who’s hurting the birdies,” one resident told the local newspaper, Fontanka. “It feels like they are culling cormorants at the stadium.”

Well, the suffering of the birds was as non-existent as their guilt over the leaky roof. The noises were actually a record intended to scare off real birds. The management of the Gazprom Arena finally got to install its roof-saving system, but set the volume too high.

“The system was launched on June 29 and the record is the screeching of raptors. It was in test mode and some people complained. On June 30, we lowered the volume and so far there were no complaints,” said the press service of FC Zenit, which uses the Gazprom Arena as its home stadium.

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