St. Petersburg hosts the Preliminary Draw for the FIFA 2018 World Cup, which is as much political news as sports news amid tensions over Ukraine.
Calls for boycotts of the 2018 competition in Russia and its qualification process will become louder ahead of the highly-anticipated St. Petersburg event. The draw, which attracts millions of viewers around the world, determines which teams will face each other in each qualifying zone for one of 31 slots.
Delegates from the participating member associations from all six confederations, almost 800 media representatives and an audience of some 2,000 people, including leading figures from the world of politics, sport and show business, are expected for the draw. It will be held in the Konstantinovsky Palace.
The loudest calls for boycotts will come from Western countries, which protested the selection of Russia as 2018 host and which have leveled economic and other sanctions against Moscow for its annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. The calls are likely to go unheeded. FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), the governing body of world football, can press home the message that politically-motivated boycotts damage athletes.
The United States led a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics because of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In 1984, the Soviets retaliated with a boycott of the Los Angeles Games.
Date written/update: 2015-02-25