The largest country on the planet is gearing up for the FIFA World Cup.
On 2 December 2010, the FIFA Executive Committee made an historic decision, naming Russia host of the 2018 FIFA World CupTM. Russia’s inspirational bid won the absolute majority it needed to secure world sport’s greatest prize.
A star-studded Russian delegation attended the ceremony in snow-clad Zurich; illustrious names like: Igor Shuvalov, First Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation; Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s Sports Minister; Alexey Sorokin, Russia 2018 Bid CEO; Andrey Arshavin, captain of the Russian national team; Anna Netrebko, world-famous opera singer; Valery Gergiev, celebrated conductor and artistic director of the Mariinsky theatre; and Elena Isinbayeva, two-time Olympic champion and track-and-field legend. They came together from different fields and different backgrounds, united by a single vision: to bring the FIFA World Cup to Russia.
"I remember being incredibly nervous when the FIFA President, Joseph Blatter, was taking that piece of paper out of the envelope. When you sing on the world’s greatest stages, you know that the outcome is in your hands. But on that day in Zurich, we could only stand and watch," says Netrebko. "We just held hands and waited. I will remember the moment I saw the word ‘Russia’ in President Blatter’s hands for the rest of my life. I know we will give the world an unforgettable tournament because Russia is an unforgettable country, unique in the diversity of its people, its cultures and its opportunities."
Andrey Arshavin shares his thoughts on that landmark moment in Russian sports history: "When I found out that Russia was going to host the 2018 World Cup, my first reaction was disbelief. But the very next moment, I just felt so proud: proud for my country, for myself and for Russian football. Hosting the World Cup will be a huge boost for the game here. I have my own World Cup dream: to watch the games in my home city of Saint Petersburg, and to see the final in Moscow."
In choosing Russia to host the 2018 FIFA World CupTM, FIFA voted for the future of football. Holding the tournament in the world’s largest country will reinvigorate the game across Russia, and push back the boundaries of the global football community.
Valery Gergiev believes the FIFA World CupTM can inspire generations of sporting and social development in Russia:
"I have been to some of the world’s top stadiums in cities like London, Madrid and Barcelona. Watching football in an environment like that is as good as it gets, so I’m thrilled that soon we will have world-class stadiums of our own here in Russia.
"The FIFA World Cup brings new possibilities to our country and we will feel the benefits for decades to come. For me, the main thing is that Russian kids will have the chance to see their idols in action with their own eyes, and their dreams of competing against them for Russia will feel that little bit closer."
The nation is already buzzing with excitement. A survey conducted by Sport+Markt on behalf of FIFA found that half of all Russians call themselves football fans. Over 60% are proud that Russia won the right to host the FIFA World CupTM, and are confident that it will be a huge success. As 2018 ticks closer, that passion will only intensify; and with such a sense of anticipation seven years out, visitors can expect a vibrant atmosphere come kick-off.
The enthusiasm for the FIFA World CupTM in Russia has filtered down from the stands and onto the pitch – even international football icons are excited by the prospect. Among them are Roberto Carlos and Samuel Eto’o, both world-class stars now pursuing a career in the Russian Premier League with Anzhi Makhachkala.
"I am very happy for the Russian people that their country got the World Cup – it is an amazing, exciting event. During the tournament the whole country forgets its problems and lives only for football and positive emotions," says Roberto Carlos. "I have been in Russia long enough to experience the real hospitality of its people. I am sure the World Cup in Russia will be full of surprises and we will definitely experience a stunning atmosphere throughout the tournament."
Eto’o adds, "Hosting the World Cup is a great honour for a country. The fact that Russia will host the World Cup is the proof that the country is moving in the right direction. It’s a great opportunity to show the world the best of Russia: it is such a beautiful, historic place. So far, my strongest impression of Russia is the warmth of its people. I am sure every fan who comes to the World Cup in 2018 will feel the same."
As soon as the Bid Committee returned home triumphant from Zurich, the real hard work began in earnest. Russia has been proactively preparing for the tournament throughout the last year. The same transparency, commitment to excellence and spirit of Fair Play that underpinned the bid campaign is fuelling the LOC, and the team has already made outstanding progress.
FIFA Secretary General, Jérôme Valcke, praised the LOC’s early running:
"From the day they were awarded the rights to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Russia has been working closely with us on the preparations for the first FIFA World Cup in Eastern Europe – despite the fact that the tournament is not until 2018. We have to congratulate the LOC, led by Chairman Vitaly Mutko and CEO Alexey Sorokin, for their commitment and for the great partnership we are forging. We are very pleased with the progress made this year. We firmly believe that if Russia continues at this pace, the world will salute Russians for organising a fantastic FIFA World Cup."
A year has passed since that momentous day in Zurich and the country is already hard at work. The Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee (LOC) has been established, comprising Supervisory and Management Boards, as well as regional organising committees for all 13 regions involved in hosting the tournament. Five of the 13 stadiums included in Russia’s bid are already under construction, and the remainder are already into the design phase.
FIFA and the LOC made a joint decision to bring forward the deadline for selecting the final 2018 FIFA World Cup Host Cities to late 2012. An interim logo will be launched before the end of the year, giving the 2018 FIFA World Cup a visual brand asset, which will be in place until the event identity is launched in 2014. The first sponsorship deals have already been secured with FIFA Partners, Coca-Cola and Hyundai-Kia, and 2018 FIFA World Cup Sponsor, Anheuser-Busch InBev.
"We value the support FIFA has given to the Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee from the very beginning. We are working night and day to repay their faith and host the best World Cup in the history of the beautiful game," said Alexey Sorokin, CEO of the Russia 2018 LOC.
FIFA has also noted the speed with which Russia is processing legislation to support the tournament, aimed at enshrining the guarantees given by the Government of the Russian Federation.
"Last year we presented a bid to the FIFA Executive Committee with the slogan: Ready To Inspire! And we won with a concept for the tournament that will unite the largest country in the world with a single passion. As we stand today, the Local Organising Committee and the Government of the Russian Federation are confident that Russia is ready to surprise and enchant the world," said Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s Sports Minister and Chairman of the Russia 2018 LOC.