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I was at our golf club yesterday evening when I decided to change the TV channel to CNN and it so happened that Larry King Live was doing an interview with the dapper ex-President and now current Prime Minister of Russia, Mr Vladimir Putin. I watched with interest the verbal and non-verbal behaviour of Putin. I have heard so much about him being an ex KGB big gun and the fact that he is also a martial arts expert. After Khrushchev, Andropov, Brezhnev, Gorbachev and Yeltsin, I thought at last we have a kinder looking and handsomer leader of the Russian! Well to cut a long story short I liked the way Mr Putin answered the questions posed to him by Larry and he even said nice words about ex-president George Bush who described him as sometimes “cocky” in his book “Decision Points”. Putin even said good naturedly that Bush had forgotten certain things in his book and that he (Putin) would remind him the next time they meet!

When Larry asked him why he was not at the bidding ballot announcement in Switzerland in the same evening for the coveted 2018 host for the World Cup he simply said ” I know David Cameron is there with his bidding team from England and I do not want to be there and put more pressure on the bidding committee, but I would fly to Zurich to celebrate with our team if we won”. Well answered Mr Putin, and it showed what an astute person he is. I liked his smile and he has changed my perception of a Russian man. All those myths and stereotyping are common when one lacks exposures. Yet I cannot forget what Mr Putin did in Chechnya!

I have already decided to wish for Russia to host the world cup because I could see what the event can do to a nation. The 2010 World Cup in South Africa had shown how the country came out to the global radar screen apart from other economic benefits that the games generated. We know more about South Africa, her people, culture and economic activities after the event as the TV and global communication networks focused on it for the whole month when the greatest sports on earth being played. Well, I would like to know more about Russia even if only through the TV screen.

As we the world have already known, Russia won the bid to host World Cup 2018 much to the chagrin of the Brits! I am sure it is going to be a good world cup as Russia would try its best to outdo China’s sterling hosting of Olympics 2008 (080808). We will also feel closer to the Russian people when we see how hard they try to showcase their nation to the world.

And yes, that same evening when they were declared the winning host by Sepp Blatter the President of FIFA, Vladimir Putin, the Russian Batman according to American diplomats as revealed by Wikileaks, stepped into the plane and flew to Zurich to party away the night with his successful bidding team.

I wanted Russia to be the host of this global event so that it can show the world that it has unifying capacities and capability to be a team player in a global village. There is so much negative information that we hear from the western world about Russia and the cold war era is still fresh in the mind of some people. We have the tendency to similarly regard China as they have a socialist-communist kind of politics so those of us brought up in the so-called democratic world tend to be uncomfortable with such a political set up. But China has shown to the world through the staging of the 2008 Olympics and the Asian Games 2010 how they have developed both socially and economically. I feel I know China slightly better now as I do South Africa who hosted the World Cup 2010.


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