Vitaly Mutko assesses Nizhny Novgorod's World Cup preparations

While football fans are getting ready to celebrate 500 days to the start of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ on 30 January, the Host Cities are pressing on with their preparations with less than a year and a half until the tournament.

On Wednesday, a high-profile committee visited Nizhny Novgorod, the closest Russia 2018 destination to Moscow at just 440 kilometres from the capital, in order to evaluate the city's preparations for the competition. The inspection was led by Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Vitaly Mutko, who was joined by the CEO of the Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee (LOC), Alexey Sorokin, as well as representatives from Arena 2018 and other involved organisations.

The first stop on the tour of World Cup venues in the city was Strigino International Airport, which unveiled a brand new terminal almost a year ago. The facility is twice as large as the previous one and has a handling capacity of more than 1.5 million people per year. The new terminal will begin to receive international flights in 2017 before welcoming fans and participants to Russia for the 2018 World Cup one year later. At the start of this week, Strigino joined several other Russia 2018 airports and opened an exhibition dedicated to the FIFA Confederations Cup, which is taking place in Russia in June and July 2017.

The renovated modern airport is linked to the city by the reconstructed Molodyozhnyi Prospekt, which was also visited by the committee. This highway is the main project in Nizhny Novgorod's transport preparations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and includes the construction of 7.1 kilometres of road with four lanes of traffic, three overhead junctions and a two-level interchange, plus an overhaul of the existing communications infrastructure and improvements to the surrounding territory.

Another key aspect of Nizhny Novgorod's transport plan is the new metro station “Strelka”, the 15th stop on the city's underground network. Maximum capacity on the new part of the line is expected to be 40 trains an hour in one direction. The station is planned to be opened in April 2018, just before the World Cup. The new station will not only make going to the football matches a comfortable and enjoyable experience for locals and guests in Nizhny Novgorod but will also lead to an increase in the metro's passenger flow by 35-40 per cent.

The city's main World Cup venue is the 45,000-seater Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, located in the area called the Strelka, where the rivers Oka and biggest European river Volga converge. The construction of the metal framework covering the stands and foyer is ongoing and the arena, which will host six matches at Russia 2018, including a quarter-final, is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

During the inspection, particular attention was paid to another sports facility: the Venue Specific Training Site situated a few minutes' walk away from the stadium. Work began on the site in August 2016 and should be finished in September this year. After the World Cup, the training ground will be used by youth sports academies in the city.

“The case of Nizhny Novgorod reassures us that all projects in Russia's 11 Host Cities that form part of the World Cup preparations will be the tournament's real legacy,” said Mutko. “They will continue to be used by locals and visitors to the cities afterwards. Yes, there's a lot still to do but we're satisfied with the progress of preparations in Nizhny Novgorod. We can already say that supporters, official figures and World Cup participants coming to Nizhny Novgorod and other Russian cities in a year and a half will be pleasantly surprised by the level of service.”

Guests at the new five-star hotel on Teatralnaya Ulitsa will soon be able to experience this for themselves - the 178-room hotel's location is just off the main pedestrian and tourist artery in Nizhny Novgorod: Bolshaya Pokrovskaya Ulitsa. The opening is planned for this summer. Five new hotels will be built in the city before the World Cup begins.

The FIFA Fan Fest on Minin and Pozharsky Square will be a key area where fans can gather in the city during Russia 2018, along with the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium. This is right in the tourist heart of the city, given that the main landmark, the Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin, is on the very same square. From this point, a wonderful view opens up on the Oka, the Volga and the landscapes beyond. The square will be able to accommodate 15,000 people to enjoy the atmosphere and watch matches at the World Cup.