British officials compare Russia World Cup to Hitler’s Olympics

A symbolic clock shows the days remaining until the 2018 FIFA World Cup near the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on March 10. British diplomat Boris Johnson expressed concern Wednesday that Russia's hosting will be used as a propaganda tool. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI

March 21 (UPI) — British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin will use the 2018 World Cup the same way Nazi Germany used the 1936 Olympics.

Johnson said the global soccer tournament — to be held in the summer at locations throughout Russia — will be “a [public relations] exercise” similar to that of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, who employed the Berlin Games as a tool for propaganda.

Speaking at a Foreign Affairs committee meeting in London, Johnson raised the issue of safety for 24,000 British soccer fans who have purchased tickets to the World Cup. The meeting follows ongoing tensions between Britain and Russia over the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter this month.

The British government — along with the United States, European Union, Germany and France — blames Russia for the attack, and London expelled 23 Russian diplomats from Britain over the nerve agent attack.

Russia responded by closing Britain’s consulate in St. Petersburg.

Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, remain hospitalized in critical condition.

“The idea of Putin handing over the World Cup to the captain of the winning team; the idea of Putin using this as a PR exercise to gloss over the brutal, corrupt regime for which he is responsible; it fills me with horror,” British lawmaker Ian Austin said. “Putin is going to use it in the way Hitler used the 1936 Olympics.”

“I’m afraid that’s completely right, completely right,” Johnson replied. “Your characterization of what is going to happen in Moscow in the World Cup, in all the venues, yes, I think the comparison with 1936 is certainly right. I think it is an emetic prospect frankly to think of Putin glorying in this sporting event.”

Johnson added that he would seek assurances from Russia that it will fulfill its responsibilities, under the World Cup contract, to ensure the safety of all fans.

“I think it is up to the Russians to give us an undertaking that they will be safe,” he said.


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