By MARQUIS HOLMES
MOSCOW — The recent FIFA World Cup in Moscow was considered the most expensive in history, so it can easily serve as a resource model for the preparation for the World Cup coming to North America in 2026.
Moscow and environs prepared their facilities, transportation and citizens for the extravaganza that was the international men’s football championship tournament that took place from mid-June to mid-July.
In a 134-to-65 vote versus Morocco, North America was deemed the host of the 23rd FIFA World Cup, which pits national teams associated with the international soccer governing body. The 2026 tournament will host matches in 16 different cities spread throughout Mexico, Canada and the United States of America. One of the matches is planned for Atlanta.
According to RBC, Russia’s leading business news outlet hosting the international sporting event will cost the Russian community more than $14 billion. However, over $11 billion in funds were allocated to improve the country in more ways than one and many of its inhabitants have been pleased with the improvements.
“As a citizen of Moscow, I can tell that it will be definitely worth spending all this money to have city in a new shape and a new bright future in the sport for our country,” said Dr. Alexander Ruchkin, director of the Grint Centre for Education and Culture at Moscow University for the Humanities in Moscow, Russia.
But what kind of preparations did Russia make for the thousands of tourists to make their presence in the motherland?
Russian preparations for the World Cup
The majority of preparations for the World Cup were focused on new stadiums and transportation. Arenas such as Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad, Otkritie Stadium in Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod were built during the 2013-18 period between the announcement of Russia’s hosting and the World Cup itself.
With half of the funds being allotted to transportation, Russia aimed to adopt the experience of Brazil, relying on public transportation and shuttle buses to transport the fans.
Russia, a predominately safe country, even struggles currently with their security with police staffing stretches across the several Russian cities hosting World Cup matches to deal with rowdy fans and the risk of security threats. According to Business Insider UK, several police officers were working long hours with reduced patrols and slowed response times to incidents.
“The situation is very dangerous …. This could lead to grave consequences,” Russia Interregional Police Trade Union Vladimir Vorontsov told Business Insider UK.
Vorontsov also told Business Insider UK that understaffed personnel has been compensated a per diem allowance of just 200 rubles on top of their regular salary, recruitment is down and the rank-and-file staff and “completely wrung out.” Two hundred rubles is less than $3.50 in U.S. money.
However, the lack of serious threats during the World Cup has proved that their efforts were not in vain.
“There’s a heavy police presence. A heavy army presence,” said Michael Giarrusso, global sports editor of the Associated Press. “That’s something we have been a little surprised about that we haven’t had to cover.”
Unfortunately, according to Bloomberg, the nation is not expected to receive a substantial and long-lasting economic benefit from the games. This reason is that sectors of Russia that are benefiting from the economic influx from tourism “aren’t drivers” in most of the local economies and will not draw tourists to those alternative destinations.
Although the economy of North America and that of Russia cannot be entirely compared, they can benefit and learn from the shortcomings that come from the economics of previous World Cups.
What American needs to do to prepare
As the hosting of the FIFA World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico gets organized, a lot of questions are still unanswered and a solid budget will probably not be drawn up in the near future. However, previous World Cup issues will probably be taken into consideration when allotting funds.
We will be expected to adapt to hosting dozens of different nations, just as Russia did. This is interesting because a current a travel ban prevents entrance into the US from a handful of blacklisted countries. Obviously, preparations will have to include a waiver for fans traveling to see their teams but then this is just a small part of the conversation officials will probably have about security.
The United States currently holds the most powerful military in the world, but that is not enough to deter foreign concerns about their safety within our nation. The US is also known to suffer consistently from mass shootings and potential terrorist attacks, a threat to large crowds in attendance for the World Cup.
It would not be unreasonable for the National Guard to be activated to prevent any possible threats and dangers in cities hosting World Cup matches. The police force on any level would be too undermanned to tend to the magnitude of fans that the World Cup generates.
Like any other country, foreigners visiting North America are not guaranteed to speak English, even though it is the most commonly spoken language in the world. Nevertheless, foreigners will still need a way to conduct business, whether it comes to ordering food or exploring attractions.
“We mostly implemented a lot of English,” said Tamara Anaova, a Moscow citizen. “We tried to have Russian and English everywhere.”
The most critical aspect of the World Cup would be a means of transportation to the 16 hosts cities, and even within the host cities. Atlanta alone, which is set to host a semi-final match at Mercedes Benz Stadium, ranks fourth worst in transportation in the country according to Business Insider and will only get worse as the international event is hosted.
However, according to Giarrusso, well-developed cities like New York do not have anything to worry about.
“New York is not going shut down for anybody,” Giarrusso said. “But New York also has a big public transportation system and 3 different highways to connect to that [MetLife] stadium so they will make it work.”
There is not an immediate answer to how these conundrums can possibly be solved, but it will likely to dwell around public transportation, for most foreigners are not expected to drive. There is no doubt that North America will generate a considerable amount of profit for FIFA, but success will also lie in the hospitality of its fans.