Russia opens 2018 showpiece Luzhniki with Argentina sell-out

Luzhniki Stadium

By Samindra Kunti

November 14 – Russia and Argentina inaugurated Moscow’s refurbished Luzhniki Stadium with a friendly international, but crowd congestion after the match left organisers red faced. In June and July, the venue will host the opening match and the final of the 2018 World Cup.

 Lionel Messi was the guest of honour in the Russian capital as Argentina, who had struggled to qualify for the World Cup, were invited to open a new chapter for the iconic, if somewhat monolithic, venue in Moscow. With seven months left until the big kick-off in Russia, this friendly was a first big test for the Luzhniki Stadium.

The game was played to a near-capacity crowd with 78,750 fans in the stands. They enjoyed good accessibility to the venue with various metro stations and tram stops within a 1km radius of the stadium. Three layers of security checked the fans before they could enter the stands.

 Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero scored the only goal of the game to ensure victory for the two-time world champions, but problems ensued at the end of the match when fans in the second tier of the ground were asked to remain seated. They were only allowed to exit the stadium 40 minutes after the full-time whistle. The measure, implemented for crowd control, backfired as authorities struggled to impose a slick circulation plan outside with bottlenecks everywhere. 

 “We need to analyse all the organisational aspects of Saturday’s match and make the necessary corrections to ensure full comfort and security for football fans in the future,” said Russia’s deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko. He is also the president of the Russian Football Union (RFU). 

Renovation of the Luzhniki Stadium began in 2013. The athletics track was removed and the stands were moved closer to the pitch. All blind spots have been eliminated. The historical facade of the stadium was kept. The Luzhniki was built in 1957 and was modernised for the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. Today the stadium has a capacity of 81,000. Next year the stadium will be the venue for the World Cup final.

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