As the 2017 Confederations Cup – generally considered a dress rehearsal for the World Cup – reached its climax, even the most Russia-skeptical Western media praised the country’s sports infrastructure and hospitality, assuring that teams and fans traveling to the 2018 FIFA World Cup need not worry.
A BBC reporter said “in terms of organization, the Confederations Cup had been well run and, especially in Moscow, well received.”
“Based on this tournament, the atmosphere will be friendly, helpful and relaxed” at the larger football showpiece next year, he added.
The BBC has “learnt” that “despite pre-tournament fears,” Russia is not a racist country, with no incidents having been reported during the event which ran from June 17-July 2.
The main concern for the British reporter, however, apart from the shape of the Russian team, apparently, was the lack of kettles in hotel rooms.
The performance of the Russian team seems to be also the only issue that concerns an otherwise pleased reporter from The Guardian.
“Russia has eased fears ahead of the 2018 World Cup by delivering a friendly, organized dress rehearsal – but the hosts are still lacking a competitive team,” the British reporter wrote, adding, that “overall, Russians will feel pleased” with the hosting experience.
Smiling faces and “signs in English” left an impression on its reporter.
“Any fan with a ticket was eligible to bypass Russia’s cumbersome visa process, and smiley volunteers at the airports and train stations were on hand to direct visitors to free transport to the stadium,” the article said. It added that “the happy demeanor of the endless rows of volunteers will be the enduring memory of the tournament for many fans.”
The Nation, one of the most widely read weekly magazines in the US, praised the stadiums as being “of the best quality,” as well as the Fan ID system.
“All the stadiums were glittering and sparkling, while innovative arenas were built within the last five years,” The Nation's reporter wrote. The “ever-visible presence” of the police “did not feel intimidating or overbearing, as fans were free to take photographs everywhere,” he commented.
“Russia seems to be well-prepared for hosting the mega 2018 World Cup and ready to deal with the huge influx of overseas visitors,” the US reporter said, adding, that with “some significant lessons” learnt from the Confed Cup, the Russian nation “can host the next year's mega event in a trend-setting manner.”
The ESPN FC football-dedicated website, owned by US-based global sports network, ESPN, sent several writers to four Russian cities hosting the Confed Cup.
Having shared their views on the tournament, they largely agreed that “Russia has exceeded expectations and dampened the fears of many by hosting a slick, well-organized tournament.”
“Barring a few kinks that should be ironed out over the next 11 months, all four venues look perfectly cut out for a World Cup; the stadia are modern and well-equipped, with access reasonably straightforward, while the cities are used to hosting foreigners and the welcome was universally warm,” one of ESPN FC reporters said.
“The feeling is that Russia will do everything possible to make sure the World Cup is a success,” another one added.
Reporting on the 2018 FIFA World Cup warm-up event, AFP said that “fears of racism and hooliganism blighting the Confederations Cup proved to be unfounded.” The Paris-based international news agency quoted Germany’s head coach Joachim Loew as “warmly praising the hosts.”
“We have seen excellent conditions at the stadiums, this has been brilliantly organized and we've met some outstanding people along the way,” AFP cited Loew as saying.
In its not so wide coverage of the event, CNN said the “trial run for the 2018 World Cup... has gone off pretty much without a hitch.”
The Washington Post published an AP wire, which cited FIFA President Gianni Infantino as saying: “If a problematic tournament looks like this tournament, then I want many of these problematic tournaments going ahead.”