By Andrew Warshaw
June 2 – Making sure he avoided any slip-ups after a tempestuous and controversial last few weeks, FIFA president Gianni Infantino, on a trip to 2018 World Cup hosts Russia, said the country was on track to stage the tournament despite economic problems caused by sanctions and the shrinking oil price.
Speaking at a ceremony in Moscow to mark the start of the Volunteer Recruitment campaign for the event, Infantino told his audience that FIFA had “received all the guarantees that the work will be delivered as promised.”
“But in addition to this, I really believe that an event like the World Cup and the Confederations Cup the year before will simply help to boost the economy of Russia because the eyes of the world will be on Russia and Russia can shine to the whole world.”
Infantino denied that repeated doping scandals had tarnished the host nation’s reputation.
“It does not affect the country’s reputation and certainly not the quality of preparations for the World Cup,” he said. “”From what I can see, Russia has done everything in this respect to move ahead in the right way and when it comes to FIFA and the World Cup as far as FIFA is concerned, we have our doping programmes, they are very strict and very firm and they apply whatever.”
Infantino was alongside Russian president Vladimir Putin who insisted that stadium construction was on schedule despite recent reports of delays and cost increases.
Of the 12 stadiums being earmarked, nine have significant construction work remaining. “Preparation for the World Cup is in full swing,” Putin said. “All of the developers promise – and are confident – that they will comply with the commitments to finish facilities on time.”
St. Petersburg lawmakers have reportedly increased the budget for the city’s World Cup stadium which was originally supposed to open in 2008. World Cup organizing committee chief Alexei Sorokin refused to comment on the cost hike. “For FIFA, the main thing is the readiness of the stadium,” he told reporters. “It will be ready at the end of the year.”
Infantino said FIFA’s newly appointed Secretary General Fatma Samoura was likely to make her first official visit to Russia in July.
“She is in charge of the administration of FIFA and of course she has a crucial role in the organisation of the 2018 World Cup. I think Russia will certainly be one of her first visits in her new quality of the Secretary General. So I am expecting sometime in July she will certainly be able to come to Russia and then you will see her quite often.”
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