As the World Cup comes to a close with Sunday’s final game, consensus seems to be building that the real winner was Vladimir Putin.
As Business Insider put it, Russia was never going to win on the pitch, but hosting the event between 32 teams could bolster Russians’ view of their own country.
“Putin seems to understand the ability of sport to foment feelings of national pride and, in turn, has repeatedly used sporting events to enhance his popular standing at home,” wrote Peter Rutland.
In hosting the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Russia spent $40 billion on facilities and infrastructure and, for the World Cup, the country invested $13 billion–four times the most expensive World Cup on the books in South Africa in 2010–in new stadiums. But when the New York Times declares the tournament “the best World Cup,” it seems like, at least in the short term, Putin’s strategy has worked out. [Business Insider]—Erin Hudson