From Sochi To Soccer: Putin Pours Billions Into Next World Cup

(NBC) - As soccer's World Cup draws to a close in Brazil, Russia is about to spend billions on hosting the next tournament - expenditure that economists say could give Vladimir Putin an economic headache and leave his country with numerous taxpayer-funded "white elephant" stadiums.

Putin reportedly plans to spend $20 billion on Russia's hosting of the 2018 competition. His ambitious plan will see stadiums and infrastructure built over an area stretching 1,500 miles from the Baltic Sea in the west to the Ural Mountains that form the gateway to Asia.

The event is expected to follow the economic blueprint of this year’s Sochi Winter Games - the most expensive Olympics in history with estimated overall price tag of $51 billion.

Professor Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Massachusetts-based Smith College, is one of the leading experts in the economics of the World Cup and Olympic Games. He is unambiguous when issuing a report card for Sochi and predicting what that might mean for Russia’s World Cup.

"Sochi was an economic disaster for Russia," said Zimbalist, author of books including "Circus Maximus: The Economics of Hosting the Olympics and World Cup," which is due to be published later this year.

Landmark sporting events are rarely good value for money for the taxpayer, he argues. Infrastructure improvements, such as glamorous subway systems connecting venues and hotels, often benefit short-term visitors rather than the long-term needs of residents. More than 15 million Russians live under the poverty line, according to World Bank figures.

While success stories can be found in the Olympics of Los Angeles in 1984 and Barcelona in 1992 where spending was smart and tight, Zimbalist said Sochi was one of the most egregious examples of waste.

See the entire story from NBC News. 

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