On 14 May, a delegation of senior officials from FIFA and the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Local Organising Committee (LOC) resumed its inspection tour as part of the process of selecting the Host Cities for Russia 2018 by paying a visit to Ekaterinburg, the most easterly of all the cities bidding to host the tournament.
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 inspection visit to Ekaterinburg kicked off with a trip to the Tsentralny Stadium. The city’s main arena opened in August 2011 following a major redevelopment, and, just nine months later, on 9 May, hosted the Russian Cup Final for the first time. In the run-up to Russia 2018, the stadium’s capacity can be increased from 27,000 to 45,000 by installing temporary structures in the south and north stands, behind the goals. Once the tournament is over, the number of seats at the Tsentralny Stadium will be reduced in order to comply with the requirements of the city and the local football club. The temporary structures will be passed on to other municipal and regional sports facilities.
The delegation then moved on to Ekaterinburg’s Istorichesky Square, which may be used to host a fan festival if the city wins the right to stage matches during Russia 2018. Istorichesky Square is situated in the centre of the city and can accommodate up to 50,000 supporters at any one time. It will also have space for giant screens and a media centre.
Addressing the delegation, the head of the Sverdlovsk regional government, Vladimir Vlasov, stressed the importance of hosting FIFA’s showpiece event. “For us, it’s a great honour to be part of the Russian bid, and we’re preparing to turn a new page in our history," he said. "For a region as large and as strong as Ekaterinburg, the World Cup is an event that could rally the public and unite the business community. This tournament could make the region more attractive to investors and improve the quality of life for local people."
The delegation completed its inspection visit by taking a look at the Koltsovo international airport. Koltsovo’s current capacity is eight million passengers a year or 22,000 a day, which meets FIFA requirements.
Asked whether Ekaterinburg’s chances of being chosen as one of the Host Cities for Russia 2018 would be affected by its relative remoteness from the other candidate cities, the LOC CEO, Alexey Sorokin, insisted: “If this factor was so crucial as far as Ekaterinburg is concerned, then we wouldn’t even have included the city in Russia’s bid to host the tournament. So the city’s geographical location is not such a fundamental issue.”