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Peeking Around Corners in the World Cup’s Provincial Cities

NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia — Olga B. Kalinina and Albina Marunova reside within the so-called socialist the town, a number of low-rise Soviet cottages that sit down alongside the freeway that hyperlinks the airport with the middle in their town, considered one of 11 in Russia that hosted suits at this summer season’s Global Cup.

Mrs. Marunova’s construction faces the freeway, and so it was once completely repaired simplest weeks prior to the match arrived in Nizhny Novgorod. Guests, hurrying to their accommodations or to the brand new stadium at the financial institution of the Volga River, would see a tidy the town surrounded via seas of inexperienced grass and timber.

Mrs. Kalinina lives just a few steps additional into the block. However visiting foreigners can not see her area, a construction that has now not observed upkeep for many years, and so the painters and the repairmen handed it via. Its yellow colour is only visual after lots of the scaffolding fell down, revealing patches of grey concrete.

“That is the way it works in Russia,” stated Mrs. Kalinina, 68 and retired from her task running in a close-by automobile portions manufacturing facility. “We’re able to do the entirety to provoke visitors and not anything to make our personal lives higher.”

Her neighbor, against this, was once radiant. “Town is growing,” Mrs. Marunova stated. “Foreigners have arrived, the freeway was once repaired.”

The Global Cup, which closes with suits in St. Petersburg and Moscow this weekend, was once the primary primary global match hosted via a number of Russian towns on the similar time. A couple of had earlier enjoy with unexpected influxes of global visitors: Moscow and Sochi had hosted the Olympics; St. Petersburg was the venue for the G20 Summit in 2013; and Kazan organized the World University Games the same year and hosted the world swimming championships in 2015.

For other Russian cities, though, the World Cup was a transformative experience. Throngs of visitors landed in city centers, some of which had been off-limits to foreigners only three decades earlier, during the Soviet era.

Russia’s federal government, for example, sent about $550 million to Nizhny Novgorod, an industrial hub on the confluence of Volga and Oka rivers, to help finance a new airport as well as a metro station near the stadium, which opened this year. One stretch of the embankment along the river likely to draw visitors, which had been surrounded by a blue fence for years, was finally refurbished.

To spend the money most effectively, the local government designated several so-called “guest routes” — essentially streets and sights that World Cup fans were most likely to see. The city administration pledged to repair all decrepit buildings on these avenues, but paperwork delayed the fixes until three months before the tournament.

In the end, migrant workers simply splashed paint on buildings, many of them architectural monuments, to obscure their battered state, said Anna A. Davydova, a local urban preservation activist. Only three buildings were properly restored, she said.

“What was done was a mere minimum, so that we would not be completely ashamed of what is happening in our city,” Mrs. Davydova said.

The stadium, which locals joke resembles an air filter from an old Lada car, is surrounded by water from two sides. That makes it difficult to reach, Mrs. Davydova said. The initial plan was to cover the arena with glass, but the project was later simplified, and now the stadium stands open to winds coming from the wide expanses of the river.

Samara, another big industrial city on the Volga, faced similar problems. A booming bread-trading hub before the Russian Revolution, it inherited dozens of first-class art nouveau buildings. A few of the buildings in the city center, which had fallen into despair in recent decades, were repaired for the World Cup, and the city’s long, lush beachfront got the care it deserved as Samara’s crown jewel.

But not all of Samara’s buildings and neighborhoods were as fortunate.

To disguise those, the local government bought and installed 6.8 miles of fence, said Yulia V. Torgashova, a local financial analyst. The comedian Ivan Urgant, the Russian equivalent to Stephen Colbert, joked about the plan on his late-night show, saying that the next step should be for the government to cover the faces of residents who were deemed not attractive enough for foreign eyes.

Rostov-on-Don got an almost identical aid package as Nizhny Novgorod to spend on infrastructure improvements: new airport terminals and roads, as well as a new stadium that opened in May. But not every project begun for the World Cup was completed.

A giant glass building, resembling a moored cruise ship, stands in front of the Rostov-on-Don railway terminal. The logo on top says Sheraton, but the hotel was not finished in time for the World Cup and will never be opened, said Maksim N. Khmel, the head of a local real estate company.

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