The general director of the Russia-2018 Committee described how Russia was able to organize the best world championship

The general director of the organizing committee "Russia-2018" Alexei Sorokin tells how Russia could organize the best world championship in history and what consequences this success will have for the country.
The FIFA World Cup in Russia was waiting with apprehension and distrust: will Russia be able to host the most popular sports competition on the planet in an organized, cordial and safe way, will there be fans in the stadiums and will there be clashes between them and the police? Fears were in vain. At the press conference following the results of the 2018 World Cup, FIFA president Gianni Infantino called the championship in Russia "the best in history", stadium utilization was 98% and by average number of viewers Russia was among the ten most visited world championships in history.

- You became the general director of the organizing committee "Russia-2018" in 2011. How much of your expectations and dreams in 2011 - about how Russia will hold the World Cup in 2018 - were close to how it really happened?

"They fell, although the reality even surpassed expectations a little." When we were thinking about it, when we were engaged in our application, when we were trying to convince the FIFA executive committee members to vote for Russia, we did not fully imagine the scale of this event. Of course, by the time we visited the World Cup in South Africa, but when you look at it from the outside, it seems somewhat different than when you yourself live the stage of preparation. We then did not represent the efforts behind it - we saw only the upper part of the iceberg. And this is a gigantic effort, a huge amount of people and resources involved. In general, it is very pleasant that if we talk about the application, then we, the country, managed to fulfill absolutely all the promises that were made there.

- Were there any obligations that were particularly difficult to fulfill? Visa-free entry?

- No, there were no special difficulties. Our football unity in the country's leadership - be it in the legislative or executive - was strong enough. What we can not just complain about, it's for the support of the state: the country's leadership had a very strong will to do everything in the best way. Of course, there were some moments that sparked discussions, arguments, discussions - that's normal. But in general, the main will to organize the best World Cup in history was, and we did not have to convince anyone that it is important that this event is of a planetary scale, that we should not underestimate it, etc.

Very often Vitaly Mutko (in 2011-2017 chairman of the organizing committee "Russia-2018." - "Vedomosti"), starting the meeting with the regions, said the phrase: "Imagine: you come to 15 000 Brazilians or 15 000 Chileans ( then we still did not know, of course, who will be selected). " Then it seemed like an abstraction - well, what 15 000 Brazilians in Saransk?

- And it turned out more.

- And there were 20,000 Peruvians in Saransk. In general, we did not fully appreciate this in 2011, in 2011.

We took limiting values, as it seemed to us then. Let's imagine, how many can come? Well, a million, let's take the maximum. A million and came as a result. And we quietly turned it. Airports managed. Cities have coped. Therefore, a short answer: yes, everything turned out as planned, although we did not yet have a real scale.

- FIFA President Gianni Infantino at his final press conference on Friday said that the World Cup in Russia is the best in history. Due to this and to whom this success became possible?

- This is the success of us as a team, absolutely absolutely. The organizing committee is only 1500 people, it can not organize and hold a championship in all cities. The organization involved FM volunteers-17 000 people, city volunteers - 18 000 people, representatives of PPCs - 20 000 people, federal authorities, regional authorities, hotel staff, all our contractors. We have almost 300 000 accreditations registered in the accreditation system - all these people are involved in organizing the World Cup in one way or another. Of course, these are our fans - people who worried about our team. This is also their success.

And, of course, our team, which, I think, performed very well. Not only the level of the game, but the level of motivation struck me. Everyone struggled right up to the spasms, and our children can not be denied the character. We proved to be one of the best teams on the defensive, scored a very large number of goals, entered the top five in the goals scored in the championship. I can note both the motivation and the desire to refute the disbelief of the fans, which reigned before the beginning of the championship. Playful songs about the team composed. And now everyone, in general, apologized to her.

- How did you survive this month of the championship? What should the general director of the organizing committee do when the championship has already begun?

- For me, he went quieter than I expected. Calmly in the sense that, apparently, everything was so well planned that it required minimal control in manual mode.

He was born in 1972 in Moscow. Graduated from the Moscow State Linguistic University and the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

2004 Deputy Chairman of the Committee of Physical Culture and Sport of Moscow. Participated in the application campaigns for the 2012 Olympics in Moscow, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the UEFA Champions League final in Moscow in 2008

2008 General Director of the Russian Football Union

2009 was headed by the bid committee "Russia-2018"

2011 General Director of the Organizing Committee "Russia-2018"

We focused on the competent autonomy of our regional teams, gave each non-cup city the opportunity to work in the Confederations Cup (the FIFA Confederations Cup was held in 2017 in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Sochi and Kazan.) - Vedomosti, so they understand that it such. In this sense, the Confederation Cup gave us a lot. And the stake on competent autonomy worked: we needed minimal interference with concrete questions of organization of matches in cities. All teams of cities were ready. And we dealt with some major issues that were umbrella reflected in the entire championship. If the so-called "childhood friends" and other children of Lieutenant Schmidt had not yet called for tickets, then in general it would have been a great month. (Laughs.)

- That is, there was not a certain day when the tension grew, increased, and then released? Or was it before the championship?

- To be honest, the tension was before the championship, because there were a lot of side events. There was a congress FIFA, there was a banquet, there were football matches of representatives of different confederations before the congress. Many events before the World Cup, which took away forces and resources.

That is, there was tension before the World Cup began, and when it all began, it was even easier to some extent: everything went on as usual. And here the director's job, probably, is to sit and worry. Because you like the wave carries with it and you, of course, can try to change something, but in another direction this wave can not be redirected.

- And in which aspects of the World Cup could be done even better?

- Hard to say. Maybe, somewhere, in some direction [between the cities that hosted World Cup matches], it was possible to put a couple of additional flights. But we could not accurately predict the demand. And without the demand to force airlines to put empty aircraft, we have no right - this is a commercial story. Perhaps, it was possible to decorate the cities even more, but even so, it seems to me that we have saturated them with the football atmosphere to the limit. Perhaps, it was possible to predict the enormous popularity of fan festivals and everywhere to make their venue more. Or persuade FIFA to do several sites in the same city (according to FIFA rules, the festival of fans can only be one in one city).

- In Moscow, in the end, still made a second platform - at the stadium "Spartacus."

- To this I say that in Moscow, in the end, it was necessary to do so - and this is absolutely correct. But it could not be foreseen. And if it were different? And if less people came? And if there was not such a football fever? These things could be corrected on the go, but globally, all our ideas worked well. All initiatives have passed: the free travel, visa-free entry, the identification of fans as a complex tool has worked perfectly. All were satisfied, no complaints we did not hear. Yes, of course, someone did not understand something. There were fans of a number of countries that tried to enter the Schengen zone according to Fan ID, suggesting that this is now such a pass to all countries. But any FM should have some curiosities. We explained to them that the countries of the Schengen agreement have not yet recognized Fan ID.

- During the World Cup you visited all 11 cities?

- I visited absolutely all cities, some of them several times. At the beginning of the championship we just "flew away", if there is such a word, - sometimes there were two cities a day.

- The atmosphere in which city made the most impression on you?

- The atmosphere was good everywhere. This is what I want to emphasize: you can not plan an atmosphere, you can not directively direct it - it is outside of functional or urban planning. The atmosphere is folded or does not add up. We, admittedly, it has developed.

- I was in six cities, it was great everywhere, but my favorite is Saransk. You know that I was a great skeptic about Saransk and at the very beginning of the World Cup specially went there - on a free train for fans. The atmosphere was beautiful: a small town and everything nearby, everything can be reached on foot. And indeed, the whole city lived football. The locals came to see the Peruvians, the Danes, talked and photographed with them, that is, there was an amazing atmosphere.

- I also was in Saransk on the day of the match Peru - Denmark, we walked around the stadium with the deputy chairman of the government of Mordovia Alexei Merkushkin and watched an incredible army of Peruvian fans in red T-shirts. And the city calmly digested this number of fans. All cities calmly digested, nowhere global complexities, there were no system errors. It is a fact.

- Are you satisfied with the number and geography of the fans at the World Cup?

- It's hard to be happy or dissatisfied with this. This is the way it is. Indeed, in the top 10 countries, whose inhabitants have bought the most tickets for the World Cup, only Germany from Europe. At the same time, there are two countries in the same top-10 that did not qualify for the World Cup, the USA and China. So, so divided interest in the World Cup. But we do not hide that, in our opinion, from some football countries there could be more fans.

- At the same time, the average load of the stadiums was 98% anyway. But how many spectators attended the World Cup matches at the stadiums? If we summarize the figures in the FIFA messages, the whole federation sold about 2.6 million tickets for the 2018 World Cup matches. One of the sponsors of the FIFA - the Coca-Cola Company, referring to the FIFA data, reported that "the whole FIFA 2018 FIFA World Cup matches will be attended by more than 3,500,000 spectators and the festival of FIFA fans will be attended by more than 5,000,000 people." That is, the sponsors and the organizing committee received 900,000 free tickets for the matches to distribute to their partners?

- The festival of fans was visited by more than 7 million people. According to the number of spectators at the stadiums, we will approach 3 million at the end of the championship. As for the organizing committee, we bought tickets for the matches. FIFA has free tickets for the football family, for the federations participating in the match, etc. And there are paid tickets. The whole aggregate gives almost 3 million people.

- Is there any statistics on how much and how many units of licensed FM-2018 products are sold and how does it relate to the previous championships?

- In accordance with the figures that we now have from FIFA, Russia has already sold 17% more than in Brazil-2014, and Brazil sold 77 million units of licensed products. Licensees are very happy: I talked with representatives of several companies - Adidas, Louis Vuitton, - everyone is very happy with the sales.

- You named the total number of volunteers. And how many countries did they represent and what was the percentage of foreigners?

- 112 countries, foreign volunteers were 7%. Foreign and foreign volunteers we provided free accommodation, meals and uniforms. I think we did not pay dearly.

- What did the world championship in Russia give to the world? In terms of sports, cultural, political?

- Deep analysis can be done after a certain amount of time. Now it will be superficial. But it is already clear that, first, we finally got the opportunity to tell the truth about our country, deprive our neighbors or distant neighbors of prejudices towards Russia, to show that we have a beautiful, good-natured and hospitable country. We showed that we can receive guests.

The most symbolic picture I saw was the tribune of English fans. A few English fans hold small placacies, apparently hastily drawn, - a kind of message to those who decided not to come to Russia: You need to be here.

Secondly, the perception of Russia has changed. The consequences of this we will see. They will be different, they will manifest themselves in different forms, but they will definitely be. We are perceived as a completely different country. It is good that the truth triumphed.

Third, in many ways this has changed us, too. It seems to me that if we could somehow crystallize the dominant idea in society, then we believed in our own strength. In football, this was reflected in the refraction of the attitude towards the national team, to the pain, interest in football. We saw ourselves on a completely new side. We, it turns out, love our team. We are united by a thirst to win. We are united by the support of our team.

With regard to the organization, we saw that we are coping absolutely with any tasks. We can organize the life here of a huge array of foreign guests: our cities can do this, our transport system can do it. We, as a country, are ready absolutely for any challenge related to tourism, for the reception of guests.

- What did Russia get and receive from the World Cup?

- This will also be the subject of research. But it is already clear that Russia has received a rebranding: an entirely new positioning in the world, a new attitude towards itself. Russia received a very concrete economic effect: a huge number of people came and left a large amount of money. A regional product and an internal product have grown. Of course, there will be a huge rise in the tourism industry. There are new hotels. There will be a huge increase in the mobility of the population, because traveling has become much easier. Airports, access roads - all this is more convenient and faster.

Of course, all the metaphysics associated with a healthy lifestyle is also a factor of the common good. Interest in sports, interest in football, overlapping the emergence of new infrastructure, will also have an impact on social and economic processes in Russia.

- About a healthy lifestyle. It is clear that beer is part of the football culture, at least for the fans. Russia should, in accordance with its obligations, provide beer in the stadiums. Russia has provided. Honestly, did you have any minimal fears that the fans can go over and start brewing?

- No, it was not. My deep belief is that beer should be allowed in stadiums. Because, firstly, it is a huge additional income, which in general helps the development of clubs, football, sports. Secondly, this is really part of the culture, as you rightly said. It's just a question of how to realize this culture. Any prohibition entails an attempt to bypass the ban. Those people who decided to put themselves in a proper condition, will do this before visiting the stadium. But if they know that beer can be drunk civilized in the stadium, then we will avoid a certain number of people already coming into a drunken state at the stadium. And I'm only talking about beer, not about other [alcoholic] drinks. In order to bring yourself into an improper state, it must be used very much - in the stadium it is almost impossible.

This should be regulated and instilled in people culture. Nobody argues with the fact that alcoholic beverages should be in restaurants. And what is the fundamental difference? There are restaurants that can accommodate 500 people. Therefore, it is a matter of gradually inculcating certain practices of attending football. Perhaps, through some mistakes, through discontent, but we will inevitably come to this.

- What can you say to the skeptics, still confident that the World Cup was not needed by Russia, that it became a screen, behind which the government increased the retirement age and VAT?

- It is very difficult to argue with any nihilism. But there are obviously few skeptics, because in general the country took the World Cup very positively. For the most part, everyone is happy, everyone is happy. This is evidenced by the mass of sociological polls and just a reaction in social networks, now you can not hide anything. Everything on the surface is Facebook, Instagram. There everything is clear, "the average degree in the hospital" can be derived very easily.

Something planned seven years ago can not be a screen. Do not try to link the processes that occur in completely different universes. The processes that take place in our domestic politics are a completely different world.

- World Cup in Russia will be the penultimate one, where the local organizing committee will work, - henceforth FIFA is going to organize championships directly from Zurich, without creating local structures, following the example of UEFA. How do you think, based on your experience - is it possible? Perhaps it is good to organize the World Cup in Mexico, the United States and Canada, without having a large and permanently functioning organizational structure on the ground?

- Now it is still very vague. The tripartite bid won the right to host the World Cup only a month ago.

How the organizing committee will look, to what eventually they will come to the decision with FIFA, now it is impossible to speak.

In my opinion, it is impossible for a foreign organization to organize anything in Russia. About other countries it is difficult for me to say. There is a UEFA model, but it works within Europe. Where the culture, legislation, taxation issues are very similar. Once this is another world, nuances can arise.

I believe that our partnership with FIFA has developed very constructive. All the issues related to the organization were resolved collectively, and the dialogue was quite meaningful. Everyone understood his maneuver, everyone knew what his powers were, the sphere of responsibility.

- When will the organizing committee "Russia-2018" cease to exist?

- We set a deadline for ourselves - the end of February, when we must close absolutely all the documents. We had the same funding as the federal, and by the FIFA, and this implies two accounts. And this is a mass of reports, including temporary buildings, operations, transport. Most employees of the organizing committee will cease their labor relations at the end of July, and every month their number will decrease. And there will be only those who will be responsible for closing all contractual relations, preparing report documents.

- As I understand it, the members of the organizing committee and you did not even have time to do your further job placement. On the part of the management of the organizing committee, will there be some kind of centralized assistance with employment to employees or will everyone be left to their own devices?

- We started the centralized help even before the World Cup. We organized seminars for employees, invited potential employers from both the sports industry, and from the services sector, from event agencies, etc. But of course all jobs can not be provided for the job, because there is no project that could accommodate all employees entirely. There is, of course, the Euro-2020 project, but it is significantly smaller: four matches after 64, the scale of one city is different from the scale of the whole country. But in principle, the organizing committee is not a homogeneous environment from the point of view of competencies, it is a set of specialists in very narrow areas. Therefore, they came from certain industries and they will most likely leave there. This is IT, transportation, accommodation, food, etc. The market is big, I'm sure that specialists with such experience will be in demand. I think that they will easily find a job.

- How do you imagine your future career?

- While it is difficult for me to answer this question. I have not thought about it yet, and I do not have a ready-made job, which I just hide from everyone. We will discuss.

- Do you remain a member of the FIFA Council?

- Yes. It does not depend on the work in the organizing committee, which is finite. There's a specific mandate for four years, of which one has already passed. If the RFU that sent me has no other ideas, then I will remain a member of the council.

- And my last question. You mentioned the English with the tablets. Can you single out any one emotion or one picture on the World Cup, not necessarily directly related to football, which you especially remember?

- Perhaps, such a symbol of football unity was Nikolskaya street. Absolutely different fans differently leading themselves, but at the same time so elegantly mixed among themselves without any confrontations. The atmosphere of a genuine football unity. When someone dances, someone sings, someone drinks beer, discusses, some spontaneous ensembles, chants. And all this is so peaceful, harmonious and friendly, despite the different colors of the shirts, that the best picture of the championship would have come from Nikolskaya.