Some 40,000 English football fans have begun arriving in Moscow to watch Wednesday's Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea in the city's Luzhniki Stadium, and some observers worry that the normally sedate Russian capital is unprepared for the disorder and rowdiness that often accompanies such events.
Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko last week promised that 6,000 additional police will be on duty, including OMON special interior troops, and appealed to English fans to show restraint.
“I urge you to respect our customs and the people who live in the city. In football there is always a winner and a loser and I ask the losing fans, who will obviously be disappointed, to behave,” he said.
“You cannot predict what can happen in football but we will make sure that our guests will be taken care of, that they feel safe and feel our hospitality and have a great time.”
Authorities have erected two club pavilions on Red Square, one for supporters of Chelsea — a team owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich — and one for Manchester United. Over 700 buses will be provided to ferry fans from the airport to the stadium in downtown Moscow.
Russia's new president, Dmitri Medvedev, took the unprecedented step last week of lifting visa requirements for British sports fans, who had been complaining that the Russian embassy in London was bogged down in bureaucracy and threatening not to issue travel documents for the unexpected wave of applicants.
Medvedev issued a special decree entitling any foreigner with a ticket to Wednesday's match to enter Russia without a visa between May 18 and 25. Such a waiver has never happened before in Russian or Soviet history.