Sign in / Join

What does this mean?

The Telegraph reports from Portugal:

The 12,000 Russian supporters in Portugal for Euro 2004 are not the only ones lamenting their team's early exit from the tournament. Georgi Yartsev's men may be propping up Group A but the fans are top of the league when it comes to spending. In the Algarve, where most of the Russians are staying, local businesses have enjoyed a bumper week catering for their expensive tastes.

While Chelsea's billionaire owner Roman Abramovich has been cruising the Portuguese coast in his £72 million yacht Pelorus, his countrymen have also been revealing the depth of their pockets by dining in the finest restaurants and booking rooms in the most luxurious hotels. One Russian family has been staying in a 3,000 euros-a-night suite at the five-star Vilamoura Marine Hotel.

"They are very, very wealthy," reports a delighted Jose Dias, an executive board member of the Algarve Tourist Board. "They like to party a lot but they prefer to keep themselves to themselves. They don't tend to come out to the bars like the English but they have their own parties within their hotels."

One lavish reception attended by Dias was hosted by the president of the Russian Football Federation last week, when 250 guests tucked into vast quantities of cavier and vodka and were entertained by traditional Portuguese fado singers and Russian ballet dancers. "I'm very impressed," he says. "They drink a lot but they behave very well. They are very friendly."

Joakuim Cabrita Neto, president of the Algarve Hotel and Restaurant Association, is equally taken with the free-spending visitors. "As far as we know, the Russians staying in the Algarve are spending a lot of money," he says. "They seem to like the good things in life. Put it this way, they are not eating omelettes. They are eating the best food and drinking the finest wines. Some have even had their own limousines driven down from Russia."

Even the local property developers stand to profit from the Russian influx. "I hear that some of them have been turning up at estate agents looking to buy villas and apartments," says Cabrita Neto.

Why are Russian football fans richer than their European compatriots? I'm all ears.