Week 57 (18 - 24 October 2014)
At a time when Russians are avoiding interaction with western media, it was somewhat surprising to see the CEO of Russia 2018 putting himself forward for an exclusive interview with the anchor sports reporter of CNN, Amanda Davies. Davies and her crew were filming in Sochi for the inaugural Russian Formula 1 Grand Prix and secured an interview with Alexey Sorokin in Moscow the following Monday. Davies’ earlier hard-hitting interview with Sochi 2014 CEO Dmitry Chernyshenko about the legacy of the Winter Games eliminated any doubt over the type of questions that Sorokin would be facing in his interview.
Unperturbed, Sorokin gave Davies a generous 45 minutes of his time, the majority of which was spent seeking his opinion on how some of the major issues that face Russia today will affect the FIFA World Cup in Russia in 2018. It was so rare for someone so senior to give up that amount of time and be prepared to answer so many difficult questions that CNN decided to edit the interview fittingly and break it into two different packages, which were shown during the 2018 venue inspection tour the following week.
But it wasn’t just Sorokin’s generosity of time that was so impressive - it was the calm and measured way in which he responded to some demanding questioning. Davies asked searching questions on human rights, workers’ rights, the Ukraine crisis, budget overruns at Sochi 2014, construction delays and much more besides. At no point did Sorokin appear flustered or angry. Instead, he was able to apply the well-used politicians’ technique of manoeuvring from the sensitive question into a relevant key message, making sure that he only answered on things for which he was responsible. A classic example is taken from the transcript below:
Amanda Davies: There were a lot of question marks around Sochi about the treatment of workers and human rights issues. What are you doing to ensure that those issues do not happen around the World Cup? The Russian laws didn’t work for Sochi?
Alexey Sorokin: I cannot comment on that [Sochi]. What I can tell you… is that the position of FIFA and our leaders is very firm; human rights are going to be respected. The World Cup is not a place for discrimination and that involves human rights as well.
Sorokin frequently flashed his engaging smile during the interview - only enhancing his credibility. Even Sorokin’s occasional tendency to blush helped reveal a very natural and human side to this most talented of communicators.
Photo: Russia 2018