Boris Johnson compares Russia hosting the World Cup to 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany

Posted On: 
21st March 2018

Boris Johnson has compared Russia hosting this year's World Cup to the Olympics being staged in Nazi Germany in 1936.

Boris Johnson giving evidence to the Foreign Affairs select committee this afternoon

The Foreign Secretary also expressed concerns about the safety of England fans attending this summer's event, particularly as the UK official in charge of their safety has been expelled from Russia as a result of recent diplomatic tit-for-tat measures.

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Appearing before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Mr Johnson was asked by Labour MP Ian Austin whether Russian president Vladimir Putin would do the same with the World Cup.

"I think the comparison with 1936 is certainly right and I think it’s an emetic prospect, frankly, to think of Putin glorying in this sporting event," Mr Johnson said. 

The Government has announced that Football Association dignitaries and members of the Royal Family will not attend the World Cup following the nerve agent attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury nearly three weeks ago.

On the issue of fans' safety at the tournament, Mr Johnson said: "One of the consequences of the expulsions we had from Moscow was that we lost the officer who was going to be responsible for the fans.

"You can’t imagine anything more counter-productive for the UK’s ability to help fans when they’re in Russia."

However he said that it would not be fair to withdraw the England team from the competition, despite calls from some MPs.

"Thinking very hard about the tournament itself and English football and English fans…I think on balance it would be wrong to punish them or the team who have worked on this for a long time incredibly hard, given up their lives to it, I think it would be a pity for them," he said.

Mr Johnson noted that applications from England fans were well down, with only "about a quarter" of the 92.000 who applied for tickets for the 2014 tournament in Brazil.


On the recent Salisbury attack, the Foreign Secretary said a number of theories had been advanced as to why Sergei Skripal had been targeted, including that there had been "some reaction" in Moscow to the deaths of Russian mercenaries in Syria.

However he said the most likely explanation was that the attempted assassination was meant to provoke the UK and create an "enemy" in the eyes of Russian voters.

"I’ve seen it speculated that there may be some reaction in Moscow, in the Kremlin to the very considerable loss of Russian life [in Syria]...I've certainly read speculation about that," Mr Johnson told the Foreign Affairs select committee.

"I think the timing is probably more closely connected with the recent election in Russia and as many non-democratic figures do when facing an election or facing some critical political moment it is often attractive to conjure up in the public imagination the notion of an enemy and that is what I think it was an attempt to excite amongst the Russian electorate."

He said the Russian government's actions were motivated by a "revanchist, bitter feeling about the way the Cold War ended" and "a desire for the world to take Russia seriously again at any price". 

"Of course his principle audience for this is not us it’s his domestic audience who want…to feel that Russia is strong again and that Russia is ruled by someone who is strong and capable of expressing his strength and desire for revenge, even in a place like Salisbury."