With millions of viewers looking on, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s Minister of Sport and Chairman of the Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee (LOC), named the 11 cities and 12 stadiums which, in six years’ time, will be hosting matches during the world’s largest sporting event.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup will take place in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Samara, Saransk, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Sochi and Ekaterinburg.
It was also announced that Moscow will be staging its FIFA World Cup matches at two stadiums: Luzhniki and Spartak Moscow’s arena.
The ceremony was opened by Blatter and Mutko. The FIFA President flew to Moscow specially to take part in the announcement of the Host Cities for the FIFA World Cup. It was the first time the President of world football’s governing body has paid an official visit specifically in connection with preparations for Russia 2018.
“The confirmation of the host cities is our first significant step on the road to the 2018 FIFA World Cup,” noted the FIFA President as he addressed guests and viewers in his words of welcome. “It is very much the contribution made by the cities which determines the success of this massive sporting event.
“We are looking forward to fruitful cooperation in planning for the first FIFA World Cup to take place in eastern Europe,” Blatter continued.
“We’re pleased with the speed of preparations for the tournament which the Russia 2018 LOC has delivered ever since the host nation for the tournament was announced in December 2010. These sorts of achievements exemplify their enthusiasm and their responsible approach to the matter in hand.”
Stars in attendance
Also taking part in the ceremony were Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s Secretary General, Alexey Sorokin, CEO of the Russia 2018 LOC, Nikolay Tolstykh, President of the Russian Football Union, Fabio Capello, head coach of the Russian national team, Alexei Smertin, a former Russian national team captain, Roberto Carlos, who won the 2002 FIFA World Cup with Brazil, Valery Gazzaev, UEFA European Manager of the Year 2004/05, Viktor Ponedelnik, who scored the winning goal for the USSR in the final of the 1960 European Championships, and a number of well-known Russian actors and musicians.
The key role in the announcement belonged to the ceremony’s smallest participants – Maksim Shpinev and Artem Shpinev, two youngsters studying at Spartak Moscow’s football school and stars of the “Sasha, get up” video that was included in Russia’s winning bid for the right to host the 2018 showpiece. They led other participants out onto the stage and opened the envelopes containing the names of the cities.
Taking part in the live broadcast were all the cities that made it into the final list of Host Cities for Russia 2018. Each time the young footballers Maksim and Artem opened a new envelope in the studio, the city which had just been awarded FIFA World Cup Host City status linked up live with the Moscow studio.
The very first city to receive good tidings was St. Petersburg. At a studio on the northern capital’s Zayachy Island, which opens out onto a beautiful view of the city, renowned Russian artists and young pupils studying at one of the country’s leading football clubs, Zenit, shared their emotions.
Valery Gergiev, conductor and artistic director at the world famous Mariinsky Theatre, who was involved in Russia’s bid to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup, explained how he felt about the Host Cities announcement: “I come onto the stage in order to gift the audience the music of the great composers,” said Gergiev.
“But ever since 2 December 2010, when I walked up onto the stage in Zurich as part of the Russian delegation to thank the FIFA Executive Committee for entrusting us with the 2018 FIFA World Cup, I have been dreaming of being a spectator, so that I can watch the virtuoso performances of the world’s greatest footballers at Russia’s World Cup stadiums. Today, that dream came a little bit closer.”
In Nizhny Novgorod, people waited for the announcement of the Host Cities for the FIFA World Cup in Minin and Pozharsky Square, which is where the city's Fan Fest will be taking place in six years’ time. Thousands of local people congregated in the square to support their home town and listen to a concert given by a well-known Russian band.
In Kazan, an exhibition match involving the Republic of Tatarstan’s student football league was arranged to coincide with the ceremony, which evolved into a real festival involving the whole country.
Entire nation enthralled
Indeed, the entire nation watched Channel One’s live broadcast on Saturday evening. Football supporters in every corner of Russia, from Arkhangelsk to Vladivostok, could feel that the world’s biggest sporting event is on its way.
Igor Akinfeev, goalkeeper for the Russian national team and the first Russia 2018 ambassador, who has been preparing for his next round of crucial matches for club and country, also got involved in what was a major event. “The World Cup’s around six years away, but already we can see that football fans are starting to look forward to a major festival,” said Akinfeev.
“I often travel to various parts of Russia and also abroad, and I can see how interest in Russia 2018 is growing right across the world. And I’ve got this feeling of pride, because I am confident that, come 2018, Russia will stage a brilliant footballing festival!”
The official posters of the FIFA World Cup Host Cities were also unveiled at the ceremony. The posters stress the individual characteristics of the cities and reflect their connection with the upcoming tournament. The official posters can be viewed on the web pages of the Host Cities under the “Russia” section at the official website.
The news from Russia received a warm welcome from FIFA’s official partners and FIFA World Cup sponsors. “Coca-Cola is a long-standing and permanent FIFA partner, and has supported world football since 1974,” said Zoran Vucinic, President of Coca-Cola in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
“We are confident that our cooperation will continue for decades to come. Coca-Cola feels enthusiastic and optimistic about the 2018 FIFA World Cup taking place in Russia. We are confident that this will be one of the finest FIFA World Cups in history.”
At the end of Channel One’s live broadcast of the ceremony, Mutko pointed out: “The final selection of Host Cities is one of the most important stages on the road to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. In taking this decision, we have started our practical preparations for the tournament in 11 Russian cities.
“The cities chosen will be able to showcase in full our country’s cultural and historical diversity. At the same time, their potential, and their links with our national footballing tradition, will allow the FIFA World Cup to leave a powerful and constructive legacy.”
The final list of Host Cities was approved at a session of the FIFA Executive Committee in Zurich, just ahead of the official announcement. The basis for the FIFA Executive Committee’s decision was a report on the selection procedure for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Host Cities.
The report contained information on the candidate cities based on five criteria: the quality of the cities’ existing infrastructure, the extent of their socioeconomic development, their investment programmes, their vision for Russia 2018 and effective use of the tournament’s legacy.
The Russia 2018 Host Cities announcement was preceded by a year of painstaking work undertaken by the Russia 2018 LOC to gather and analyse information for the report, in order to ensure that the decision would be as open, objective and balanced as possible.
Start of full-scale preparations
The announcement of the final list of Host Cities for the 2018 FIFA World Cup signals the start of full-scale preparations to put in place the sporting, transport and accommodation infrastructure required for the tournament.
Five of the stadiums nominated to host FIFA World Cup matches are already under construction – the arenas in St. Petersburg, Kazan, Sochi and Saransk, as well as Spartak Moscow’s stadium – and most of these will open to the public by 2014 at the latest.
By the end of this year, a plan will have been drawn up for the construction and reconstruction of stadiums for Russia 2018. Work is already underway on a federal law for the FIFA World Cup, and this piece of legislation was recently tabled at the State Duma, the lower house of parliament.
The successful staging of the most important event for the Russia 2018 LOC, in the just under two years since it was set up, paves the way to a new and important stage on the path to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, on the road to an unforgettable festival for the entire football community.