- *Press conference held in St Petersburg ahead of Russia 2017's Opening Match *
- Fatma Samoura, Vitaly Mutko, Alexey Sorokin & Colin Smith all spoke
- Smith: "The four stadiums are fully operational and all set"
On the eve of the opening match between Russia and New Zealand, representatives from FIFA, the Local Organising Committee and the Russian government gathered at the Saint Petersburg Stadium to talk to the international media about expectations for the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017.
Here is what they had to say:
*Fatma Samoura, FIFA Secretary General *The time has finally come. After years of planning and hard work, Russians can start reaping their reward: high-level, competitive football.
But this is also a special occasion off the pitch, because the FIFA Confederations Cup is the main operational milestone on the way to next year’s FIFA World Cup. All the experience and knowledge acquired here will be of enormous value for 2018. The FIFA Confederations Cup is FIFA’s first men’s football tournament in Russia and a crucial step on the way to the World Cup: for the host country, the LOC and FIFA.
Right now, expectations are of an overall attendance of 480,000 during the competition. This means that we have achieved the mark of 65 per cent of tickets allocated – and in a country whose culture for major sporting events is one of last-minute purchases. Tickets for the match involving Russia and Portugal have been sold out for weeks, for example.
*Vitaly Mutko, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia and Chairman of the Local Organising Committee *Everything is ready to welcome the fans, teams and officials. And I am not referring only to infrastructure, but also the specific arrangements such as the visa-free policy for ticket holders, which is fully operational, or the free train rides for ticket holders travelling between host cities. These are measures that reinforce our determination to ensure that people from all over the world feel welcome in Russia.
*Alexey Sorokin, CEO of the Local Organising Committee *Six years' work is now only a few hours away from becoming a reality. That means four stadiums, 12 training pitches, seven airports, seven railway stations, 20 official hotels and almost 6,000 volunteers.
We will celebrate exciting milestone two hours before the kick-off of the opening game on Saturday. At 4pm we will have a beautiful opening ceremony, and I really encourage all ticket holders to come and watch it. It is a tribute to the four host cities, featuring great Russian artists.
*Colin Smith, FIFA Chief Competitions & Events Officer *I am glad to say that preparations are complete: Russia is ready, the four stadiums are fully operational and all set to host the 16 matches over the next two weeks. Anyone who has been involved in organising major sporting events knows: this is not an easy task to achieve. Russia, together with the host cities, has only reached this stage of readiness after a lot of very hard work over a number of years – and with intense fine-tuning during the last few months and weeks.
Football fans from 183 territories around the world will be watching the FIFA Confederations Cup on television, and I am sure that they - and we - will witness a fantastic event.