An elaborately choreographed show, a celebration honouring veterans of football and an introduction to players from Tatarstan's football academies - perhaps one day destined to be local fans’ favourites - provided a colourful prelude to the opening of the new 45,000-seat Kazan Arena, which will host both the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ and FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 matches in just a few years' time.
Ahead of the Russian Premier League match between Rubin Kazan and Lokomotiv Moscow, special events were laid on to mark the first match held in the stadium and were attended by Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko and the Head of the Republic of Tatarstan, Rustam Minnikhanov, who were on hand to unveil the symbolic stele showing its status as a 2018 World Cup host stadium. Before the starting whistle, the Sports Minister and the President of the Republic gave welcoming speeches to fans, the first to watch football at the Kazan Arena.
“Today we are here to witness a historic moment – the opening of the first 2018 FIFA World Cup venue," said Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s Sports Minister. "This is an amazing and truly exceptional stadium, which can already be considered as a jewel and a landmark in the city of Kazan and the whole Republic of Tatarstan.
"I'm sure that in 2018 the fans and guests of the FIFA World Cup will appreciate all the benefits and features of the Kazan Arena. And the stadium itself will have a long-lasting and happy life for decades to come."
"I want to congratulate all the fans with this tremendous new stadium," said Rustam Minnikhanov, the head of the Republic of Tatarstan. "Kazan is deservedly considered as Russia’s capital of sports.
"Many international tournaments are hosted in our city. And we will be happy to host the guests and participants of this great football festival – the FIFA World Cup – sharing our hospitability and warmth with our friends in football!”
Completed in July 2013, the Kazan Arena has already played host to the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2013 World Summer Universiade, after which the stadium had a natural turf laid and all necessary additional work for hosting football matches completed.
The stadium has a unique design — from afar the graceful curves of the arena's roof are reminiscent of a water lily adorning the picturesque banks of the Kazanka river. The front of the stadium is fitted with the world's largest high definition screen, with a total area of 3,700 metres.
The new 2018 FIFA World Cup venue has been designed to satisfy even the most demanding of supporters. The stadium has skyboxes, a restaurant with a panoramic views of the pitch, a number of food courts, sports bars and cafes; a children's area and a shop with club merchandise. The arena will also boast a Rubin Football Club museum, a vintage car museum and another dedicated to the stadium's history. For fans coming to matches in their own vehicles, there is parking for 4,445 cars.
The Kazan Arena is a multiuse complex capable of hosting not only football matches but also entertainment and major sporting events. In 2015 Kazan will host the World Aquatics Championships and the stadium will be one of the main centres. Two swimming pools will be built at the Kazan Arena – a 50m-by-26m competition pool and a 50m-by-25m warm-up pool. Medals in the World Aquatics Championships will be awarded for swimming and synchronised swimming.
The first stone of the Kazan Arena was laid on 5 May 2010 by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The stadium took 36 months to build and was delivered in May 2013 ahead of the Universiade in Kazan. During the world student games the stadium housed the main press and broadcasting centres. The opening and closing ceremonies of the Universiade were also held at the Kazan Arena. The stadium will be home to two-time Russian champions FC Rubin Kazan.