By Paul Nicholson in Paris
July 8 – With 705 days to go to the opening of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, organisers have said that stadia will be completed on time and that Russia will be ready to host “the best World Cup ever”.
Speaking at the World Football Forum in Paris, Alexander Djordadze, director of FIFA and government relations, 2018 Russia World Cup organising committee, said the 12 stadia and the 11 cities will all be ready.
The most pressing concern has been the St Petersburg stadium which has had numerous delays and rethinks in the build of the 68,000-capacity facility. Scheduled for completion this September, the stadium will be the centerpiece for the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia. The three other stadiums used in 2017 will be the Spartak Moscow stadium, the Kazan Arena and the reconfigured Fischt stadium in Sochi, host of the 2015 Winter Olympics.
The Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, which will host the opening match and final of the 2018 World Cup, will be complete its reconstruction by May 2017 and will have between and 80,000 and 81,000 seats.
The remaining seven stadia for 2018 are all still in various stages of construction though no alarm bells were sounded on build progress – a welcome relief for FIFA after the issues of Brazil 2014.
Alongside the stadia Russia is preparing 101 team facilities and Djordadze said that between 15 and 20 national federations had already sent delegations to tour the camps.
Alongside the physical infrastructure comes a people requirement, and Djordadze said that following the launch of the volunteer programme on June 1, more than 60,000 applications had been received, most of them domestic.
While organisers are preparing to welcome the world, a campaign has begun in Russia to increase audiences to football – both on TV and in stadia – and reverse a four-year trend downwards that has caused concern within Russian football circles.
Organised by Eventica Sport, a series of campaigns have been initiated under the ‘Russia Loves Football’ tagline to re-engage Russians in the game.
Eventica Sport CEO Igor Stolyarov said that Russia had a long and passionate football history and culture, but that passion had been lost in recent years and needed to be rekindled.
“We are working hard to touch the hearts and souls of Russian families to expand the audience of Russian fans and we are already seeing success,” said Stolyarov.
Russia will be ready for 2018 in terms of facilities. If Stolyarov is successful, the people will be ready too.
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