Sochi - the city immune from World Cup fever

You could be forgiven for questioning Sochi's World Cup status - while it offers a lot, the buzz of a major tournament has been missing.

Published : Jun 16, 2018 23:51 IST

We have seen Moscow overflowing with fans from across the globe.

Iranian, Saudi Arabian, Moroccan and Peruvian visitors have added plenty of colour to the Russian showpiece, with Red Square and the surrounding streets gripped by World Cup fever.

The same can be said about St Petersburg and Kazan, where a swarm of green and gold fans has descended on the banks of Volga and Kazanka rivers to show their support for Australia amid carnival atmospheres.

But what about Sochi?

The picturesque resort town destination hosted one of the greatest World Cup matches in history on Friday as neighbours Portugal and Spain played out a six-goal thriller.

Cristiano Ronaldo came and conquered but his hat-trick and the unforgettable 3-3 draw at Fisht Stadium was quickly forgotten on an overcast and humid Saturday.

The Olympic precinct, consisting of an ice arena, tennis centre and surrounding Formula One track, represented a relative ghost down, with sparse pockets of families and locals opting to take in the nearby Amusement Park – no football jerseys in sight.

Leading up to the Group B blockbuster, it was remarkably quiet in the Adler region, those in the area far more concerned bathing and taking in the Mediterranean-like weather beachside with the Black Sea providing a stunning backdrop.

Pop-up bars and restaurants – set up for the World Cup – were quiet. Heading into town – a 30-minute drive from Fisht Stadium where the FIFA Fan Zone is located – was not too different.

A couple of hundred Spanish and Portuguese fans added some noise and colour but it was underwhelming compared to the other host cities.

Game day promised so much and it delivered inside an electric ground. Ronaldo, Portugal and Spain ignited the fans late into the night.

But as memorable as it was, the atmosphere we had been craving quickly dissipated and just like that Sochi was back to its peculiar self.

No Spaniards. No Portuguese. No flags. No colours. No talk or buzz in the aftermath of an all-time classic.

You could be forgiven for questioning if Sochi was indeed a World Cup host. And while it offers so much, Friday's exhilarating contest deserved better.

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