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The Boston Herald


MOSCOW - Moscow's beer kegs are emptying fast and demand for Vladimir Putin T-shirts is overwhelming St. Petersburg street vendors as the World Cup sends business surging across the 11 Russian cities hosting soccer's biggest show.

The Russian president was counting on just such a boost after U.S. and European sanctions and low oil prices sank the country into recession and after Russia's government spent about $12.7 billion to ready for the World Cup. But experts warn the boon won't last long without deeper change to the oil-reliant, corruption-tainted Russian economy.

Here's a look at some businesses booming thanks to the World Cup:

Among the big winners: freelance taxi drivers, dating apps and bars where fans gather to watch matches or celebrate their teams' victory.

"We are so far off the chart on this, we order as much beer in one night as we would order in a month," said Doug Steele, owner of Papa's Bar & Grill on Nikolskaya Street just off Red Square. He dragged a keg on a dolly as he talked, too busy to stop.

The blocklong GUM shopping mall that faces the Kremlin has seen traffic climb 80 percent compared to the same period last year, according to its manager, Teymuraz Guguberidze.

"The effect is much higher than our expectation," he said. "It makes us very happy."

The lift has reached retailers far beyond the Russian capital, helping other host cities far off the tourist path.

Mexican fans revved up business in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg, overwhelming vendors at a sports store as they bought up any available souvenirs.

Moody's ratings agency warned just before the tournament opened that despite the boost in tourism industry revenues, the World Cup would only make a "short-lived" contribution to the economy. Most host regions are unlikely to keep drawing tourists afterward, Moody's warned, because they are too hard to reach, too cold and must compete with more attractive destinations elsewhere.

Yet the tournament is bringing intangible advantages that business leaders hope leave a lasting mark.

"The World Cup has a very good influence," said Guguberidze of Moscow shopping mecca GUM. "It creates a good mood, and leaves a good impression of Russia."

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July 2, 2018


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