Hard work begins for World Cup hosts Russia

AFP, Thursday 2 Dec 2010

The 2018 World Cup hosts Russia are celebrating winning the right to host football's showpiece event, but they still have plenty of obstacles to overcome to make it a successful event.


Russia's huge size and its remoteness from other countries as well as its relatively weak transport system have prompted questions about its ability to move fans, players and officials from one region to another.

The Russians intend to stage the World Cup in 13 cities grouped into four clusters, stretching from the enclave of Kaliningrad on the borders of the European Union to Yekaterinburg in the Urals region on the fringe of Siberia.

With the exception of Yekaterinburg, all the host cities are in the European part of Russia and teams will not have to fly out to far-flung regions in Siberia and the Far East.
However, several of the host cities lack adequate airports and are saddeled with poorly developed transport infrastructure.

A report by FIFA inspectors, who studied the country's facilities earlier this year, stressed that the country's almost total lack of motorways may seriously overload air transport. But some Russian airlines have already played down the problem saying they were ready to increase the number of flights and open new routes in 2018 while leaving their tariffs at the lowest possible level.

"The accessibility of the regions is one of the key factors in holding such an important event, especially when we're speaking about such a big country as Russia," the chief executive of Russian budget airline AviaNova Andrew Pine said.

"I can personally assure FIFA that our company will provide regular transportation for Russian citizens and the World Cup guests at a very moderate price, which correlates with the leading European discounter Ryanair's price policy."

Russians will also have to improve a seriously weak infrastructure in many of the proposed host cities and overcome a severe lack of inexpensive tourist-class hotels there. The existing situation has already sparked a number of questions about the country's ability to receive and accommodate all the fans who would come to support their sides.

Many of the proposed World Cup host venues need major renovations. The event's main arena - Moscow's Luzhniki 83,000-seater - will need a new natural pitch because currently its pitch is synthetic.

But full government support for the idea of the staging the World Cup decreases the risks since Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin not only promised visa-free travel for all the World Cup players, guests and supporters.

The prime minister has also impressed FIFA executives with his wholehearted political support of the ambitious project.

He said that construction work for the country's possible World Cup facilities would take place even if Russia's bid failed.

The Russian strongman - whose support was seen crucial in securing the 2014 Winter Olympics for Russia - has also promised that football fans will have the right to travel free on public transport during the event.

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