New St Petersburg stadium to adorn Russia 2018
© LOC

A delegation of senior members of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Local Organising Committee (LOC) and experts from FIFA made an inspection visit to Saint Petersburg on 26 April 2012, as part of the process of selecting the Host Cities for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.  Heading the delegation on the LOC’s behalf was its CEO, Alexey Sorokin, while FIFA was represented by its head of department for the 2014, 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups, Jurgen Muller.

The delegation began its visit to Saint Petersburg in Dvortsovaya (Palace) Square, which is under consideration as the main site for potential Fan Fests. Once Russia 2018 gets under way, the square will be able to hold up to 57,000 supporters.

Next stop for the delegation was Krestovsky Island, where work is already under way on the construction of a 69,000-seat stadium. The arena is being put forward as the venue for one of the semi-finals.

“At the moment, we’re waiting for approval based on a state assessment of the design for the arena’s retractable roof,” said architect Dmitry Bush, when speaking to the delegation about the project. “Once that comes through, we’ll be able to expand the scope of the construction work significantly. The stadium will host its first official matches in 2015. And Saint Petersburg is planning to host matches during the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017.”

The stadium on Krestovsky Island promises to be one of the most striking of Russia 2018. The high-tech arena will have a retractable roof and sliding pitch, which ensures that the surface can be maintained in ideal condition at any time of year.

It also means that the arena will be able to host not only football matches, but also concerts, when its capacity can be expanded by a further 14,000. In addition, specific areas in the stadium – accounting for one per cent of the venue’s total capacity – will be equipped for disabled supporters.

Saint Petersburg has a special place in the Russia 2018 concept plan. Under the plan, the city will host the Preliminary Draw for the tournament, the first official event of Russia 2018. The venue for that draw could be the new stage of the celebrated Mariinsky Theatre. The new building will be opening to the public in 2014, and in 2015, it may well be where national teams from around the world will learn the fate they face on the road to Russia 2018.

“The discussion we had today at Saint Petersburg’s committee for physical education and sport was very fruitful,” said FIFA’s head of department for the 2014, 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups, Jurgen Muller, in summing up the results of the visit to St Petersburg. “We discussed some of the aspects to do with preparation of the infrastructure needed to host the World Cup. At this stage we’re just gathering information from the candidate cities, and what we can say is that we’re pleased with the responses we received to the questions we asked.”

That evening, the LOC and FIFA delegation headed off to Kaliningrad, where it will be continuing its inspection tour on 27 April.