Around 3,000 guests attended the ‘Russia - Country of Sports’ forum in Saransk, one of the candidate host cities for the 2018 FIFA World Cup™, from 8 to 10 September. FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke delivered a keynote address to those in attendance, along with other leaders from international sport.
Valcke revealed he has been mightily impressed by Russia’s commitment to putting on a wonderful tournament in seven years’ time. He explained: “This is really the first visit to Russia during which I have had a chance to see something of the country. Each city is well prepared to get started. We are working here in Russia and, together with the LOC, we are ahead of schedule in delivering the FIFA World Cup. I am not saying it will be all easy, but the approach and preparation of Russia is outstanding at this point of time.
“I had a chance to visit the various exhibition stands of the host cities here in Saransk, and I have to admit I am surprised about the level of preparation and commitment. The representatives from the candidate host cities explained their plans to us in detail. You get the feeling Russia is preparing for a World Cup tomorrow. The approach Russia is taking in preparing for this FIFA World Cup is fantastic. Congratulations, well done so far.”
Valcke stated that the selection of the 12 host cities would be determined by March 2013 at the latest, with detailed inspections and analysis ongoing until then. He also shared the results of research conducted in July 2011: “It is very pleasing to see that seven years prior to the event, 61 per cent of the respondents said they are proud that Russia is hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Here you can feel Russia is a football nation."
Valcke then discussed the host cities’ desire to build for the long-term. “Legacy touches a number of things,” he said. “The key is that all of what is built will not only be used for the World Cup but beyond. Football should be used for education. The time of white elephants is over. Sustainability is they key.
“I was pleased to see that Saransk - if they are chosen as a host city - plans to build a 45,000 stadium for the FIFA World Cup in such a way that it can easily be reduced to a 28,000 one after the event, because that is what the city needs. That is the approach the cities need to take when planning, and today I have seen the Russian cities are doing exactly that.
At the forum, the Local Organising Committee held a roundtable: ‘The 2018 FIFA World Cup: Vision and Legacy’. Two senior representatives of world football’s governing body, Jörg Vollmüller, head of FIFA Commercial Legal, and Federico Addiechi, head of FIFA Corporate Social Responsibility, came to Saransk to participate in the roundtable together with the LOC Chairman and Minister of sports, tourism and youth policy, Vitaly Mutko, and the CEO, Alexey Sorokin.
Vollmüller stated the important role of the government in preparations for the FIFA World Cup, and especially in delivering the federal government guarantees: “The FIFA World Cup is a special event with its own needs. Fans from all over the world must have a similar experience and enjoy the tournament in the stands and outside the stadium.”
Addiechi emphasized aspects of social and environmental responsibility of the competition: “The fact that football is the most popular sport in the world involves great responsibility. That falls to Russia, as the host country of the 2018 World Cup, to do something larger than just a tournament, to promote social development, environmental protection and the sustainable use of natural resources.”
In addition to participating in the roundtable, the LOC presented a special pavilion devoted to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. In the 200-square-meter hall, a small FIFA World Cup island had been set up. Eight interactive screens made it possible to take a fascinating journey through the history of the tournament, starting with its first edition in Uruguay in 1930.
Vitaly Mutko stressed that the FIFA World Cup is not only a great sporting event, but also a tool for shaping a powerful legacy: “Stadiums are being built in Sochi, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Saransk, and Kazan. Next year we plan to design seven other arenas. In the next two to three months, a list of all the facilities needed for the World Cup will be set.”