Russia 2018 could “revitalise” Kaliningrad’s Oktyabrsky Island

A delegation of senior members of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Local Organising Committee (LOC), supported by experts from FIFA, paid an inspection visit to Kaliningrad on 27 April, the latest stage in the process of selecting the Host Cities for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Russia’s most westerly regional centre was the fourth stop on the delegation’s inspection tour, following earlier visits to Krasnodar, Rostov-on-Don and Saint Petersburg.

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 started off with a presentation of Kaliningrad’s concept plan for Russia 2018. If the region makes it into the final list of Host Cities, it plans on exploiting its special geographical location to attract supporters from Europe, who will be able to travel to Kaliningrad not just by air, but also by car.

The regional government is placing particular emphasis on the Primorskoye ring road project, which should connect the city of Kaliningrad to the main highways heading off into neighbouring countries, as well as to the region’s ports, its satellite towns and Khrabrovo Airport. By 2018, the airport’s capacity is expected to rise to seven million passengers a year.

“For us, the World Cup isn’t just a sporting event. It’s a powerful catalyst for wholesale changes to our hotel, transport and sports infrastructure, as well as being a powerful driver of inbound tourism and an opportunity to put Kaliningrad on the map in Russia and around the world,” stressed the Governor of Kaliningrad Region, Nikolay Tsukanov, as he addressed the delegation.

For us, the World Cup isn’t just a sporting event. It’s a powerful catalyst for wholesale changes to our hotel, transport and sports infrastructure.

During their visit, the delegation paid a visit to Oktyabrsky Island, which is where the region plans to build a 45,000-seat stadium for Russia 2018. Under plans drawn up by the French company which won the design tender for the new stadium, once the tournament is over, the arena will be transformed into a multi-purpose 25,000-seat sports complex.

Some of the stands are scheduled to be dismantled to ensure the arena is economically viable. The design solutions for the stadium will mean that it can host not only football matches, but also winter sports and water sports.

During their visit, the LOC and FIFA representatives also went to Kaliningrad’s Tsentralnaya Ploshchad (Central Square), by the House of the Councils, which is where the region plans to stage a fan festival.

“What’s important to us is what steps the Local Organising Committee is taking alongside the regional government to comply with FIFA’s requirements for World Cup host countries,” noted Sorokin.

“We can see that more detailed studies of the stadium design have been carried out, and that there’s also a greater understanding in terms of the facilities required for the tournament’s infrastructure.”

“Now we need to obtain more information and see everything for ourselves, so that this September we can approve the final list of Host Cities for the tournament,” said Muller, as he summed up the results of this stage of the inspection tour.