I mean the city. Much was made of the absurdity of having two English teams and their respective hordes of fans go to the trouble and expense of traipsing to Russia to contest the Champions League final, not to mention the environmental impact of all those extra flights.
We were told how it would be impractical to change venue at such a late stage (ie after the semi-final results established that both finalists would be English teams) because it takes months of preparation to stage such a big final. Well I don’t entirely buy that argument. A team in the Coca Cola Championship that squeaks into the play-offs on the last day of the season has very little time to organise the home leg of the play-off semi-final, but still manages it even though large numbers of fans can be expected to attend. OK, this does not quite compare to a Champions League final in terms of the surrounding pomp, media interest, etc but I don’t believe it is a question of logistics.
The reason that the final was not taken away from Moscow is that cities regard it as a matter of great prestige to act as hosts. They apply to UEFA years in advance and fight off competition from other candidate cities for the honour. It is a great privilege to be awarded the opportunity to stage a high profile final, and it would be unfair on Moscow to deny them their big day on the world stage at late notice.
The final at the Luzhniki stadium meant a lot more to Moscow than just hosting a football match. It was a massive PR opportunity. It was a chance to make a statement to the world. We are an important city. We can not only stage a big event, we can do it with style, polish and aplomb. We can change your mind about Moscow. You think it is a cold, forbidding place, riddled with spies and brutal secret police. We’ll show you Moscow’s warm and welcoming side – happy faces, a warm party atmosphere, glitter and razzmatazz. Smooth, trouble free and supremely competent organisation. Lots of people from overseas welcomed and having a great time. We’ll show you Moscow is a great place to come visit.
Well they achieved all that. The final was a great success in every respect (except the result from the Chelsea perspective). No trouble. No riots. No stabbings. No police brutality. No travel crises, no traffic jams, no-one stranded.
Just a big party and a night to remember. Well done Moscow.