Man, this is not good at all:
Football Coming back to Chechnya?
On Thursday, Russian football officials appeared ready to rule that indeed, the capital of the Chechen Republic is ready to host football. FC Terek Grozny will rejoin Russia's Premier League this season - its first match is March 14 - but doubts remain about where it should play.
Hurricane Katrina nearly destroyed one of America's great cities, and the city's sports teams were no exception to the crisis. The Louisiana Superdome, the giant sports complex in the heart of the city, was turned into a shelter for the storm's refugees. In that capacity it became a focal point of the misery and despair it engendered. A year later, it was once again hosting the city's professional football team, the New Orleans Saints.
But the move back to normal hasn't been easy. For two seasons, their NBA team, the New Orleans Hornets, played their "home" games in Oklahoma City. They've returned, and are having a fantastic season - 40-19 on Tuesday, led by exciting point guard Chris Paul.
"If any city needs to be lifted up now, it's New Orleans," Hornets owner George Shinn was quoted as saying in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "And I want to be a part of it."
But trouble remains. The Hornets' average attendance this season is less than 15,000 a game - the worst of any team in the league with a winning record.
American sports teams have always made a concerted effort to get on with things in the face of tragedy. The NBA All-Star game was a key signal that the city would not be forgotten. It is not about politics.
Grozny is a much different case. What happened there was no one-time natural disaster, and just how safe and stable the North Caucasus region really is remains a serious concern.
Terek FC traces its origins back to 1946, and play suspended during the first of the wars that struck the region. It regrouped, playing its "home" games in Pyatigorsk. Last season it earned a spot in the Russian Premier League, and they want to play at home.
The team's Bilimkhanov stadium has been refit with a new turf, new lights, room for 10,000 fans, a new scoreboard. It also features an impressive luxury box for team (and Chechen Republic) President Ramzan Kadyrov. A reporter for Ogonyok noted that it features a bedroom, living room, lush carpets, plasma televisions, and photos of famous visitors like President Vladimir Putin and boxer Mike Tyson.
"Security problems exist in varying degrees anywhere in the world," Kadyrov was quoted as saying recently in Gazeta.ru. "In Moscow, in London, any natural disaster could happen, and about that we don't ask. But when dealing with the terrorist threat, I 100 percent guarantee that it does not exist in the Chechen Republic."
The government is very eager to get them there as well, as another signal that things have returned to normal down there. Reuters reports that President Vladimir Putin - not known to be a big football fan - has only received two football teams at the Kremlin. One was CSKA Moscow after it won the UEFA Cup in 2005. The other was Terek Grozny after it won the 2004 Russia Cup. It is part of a comprehensive approach, coupled with last December's - ahem - remarkable 99 percent support for United Russia in parliamentary elections, to prove that all is well.
But it must be noted that it was less than four years ago at this very stadium where Kadyrov's father, Akhmat Kadyrov, was assasinated. There is no hiding that the region remains a dangerous place to travel, and that other Russian teams would have good reason to want to avoid going there.
Hosting major sports events in the best of circumstances is a tricky thing - witness Europe's continuing efforts to combat football hooliganism for a start. But the unique situation in Grozny gives pause. Russia's top sports leagues are experiencing a moment of resurgence, and playing matches in a wishful atmosphere of normality won't be much help.