Boris Johnson Says Russia Hosting World Cup Is Like Hitler Hosting The Olympics

Ned Simons

Boris Johnson has said Russia holding the football World Cup is the same as when Nazi Germany hosted the Olympic Games.

The foreign secretary said he was “deeply concerned” about the safety of England fans attending this summer’s tournament.

“It is up to the Russians to guarantee the safety of England fans going to Russia. It’s the duty under their Fifa contract to look after our fans,” he told the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

Johnson revealed The Kremlin had expelled the British Embassy official who was responsible for the safety of England fans .

But he said the government was “at the moment not inclined to actively dissuade people from going”.

He said it would be “wrong to punish” the England team or fans to prevent them from attending the tournament. “I think it would be a pity for them,” he said.

Johnson said Labour MP Ian Austin was “completely right” to compare Vladimir Putin’s World Cup to Adolf Hitler’s Olympics.

“I think your characterisation of what is going to happen in Moscow in the World Cup, at all the venues, yes I think the comparison with 1936 is definitely right,” Johnson said.

“I think it’s an emetic prospect to think of Putin glorying in this sporting event.”

Austin had told the foreign secretary: “Putin is going to use it the way Hitler used the 1936 Olympics.

“I frankly do not think England should be participating in the World Cup,” he added.

“There’s absolutely no way I would be going to Russia to watch the national team. If a member of my family wanted to go he’d be subject to visa ban by me.”

Johnson said Putin’s actions, including the accusation Russia was behind the Salisbury nerve-agent attack, was a result of his “revanchist bitter feeling about the way the Cold War ended”.

The foreign secretary also revealed the number of England fans applying to travel to the tournament was down a quarter on what it was at this point ahead of the 2014 tournament.

He said only around 24,000 fans had applied to travel to Russia compared to 94,000 who had expressed interest in going to Brazil.