Players from the Russian national football team, a Stanley Cup winner in ice hockey, athletics, judo, gymnastics and biathlon, a famous opera singer and finally an astronaut. What do all these outstanding Russian personalities have in common? They have all been nominated as host city ambassadors for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.
The cities set to host matches at the World Cup have appointed people who are connected with the region in some way for this important and esteemed responsibility. Renowned ice hockey player Pavel Datsyuk has undertaken to be the face of his native Ekaterinburg as a Russia 2018 ambassador, father and son pair Dmitri and Denis Cheryshev, who represent the past and present of Russian football, have been chosen for Nizhny Novgorod, and opera singer Vasily Gerello will do likewise for Saint Petersburg (see below for a full list of ambassadors).
The ambassadors have been tasked with promoting a healthy lifestyle, popularising the landmarks and cultural values of their cities and, it goes without saying, advertising the World Cup in 2018. There are 19 city ambassadors in total, a number that will only grow in the future.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Yelena Isinbayeva recently became an ambassador for the Russia 2018 host city Volgograd and has explained how she views her role.
“My task and responsibility is to attract guests to our city and make it seem interesting for tourists with stories about the city and how World Cup preparations are progressing,” Isinbayeva told FIFA.com. “Russia 2018 will change our city for the better – the competition will give a great boost to the development of football and collective sport in general in Volgograd.
“We're getting a brand-new modern and beautiful stadium, which will be the jewel in Volgograd's crown. New roads are being laid and construction on the airport is almost finished, which will allow our citizens to fly to many countries directly without having to go through Moscow.”
Another city ambassador, opera singer Vasily Gerello, has already been involved in World Cup preparations when he took part in the first official Russia 2018 event, the Preliminary Draw in summer 2015 in Saint Petersburg. Together with opera singer Hibla Gerzmava, he performed the song “Moscow Nights” at the eye-catching draw ceremony. Gerello was picked as an ambassador for Saint Petersburg in December 2015 and admitted that he was “over the moon” to take on this role.
“It's a great honour for me to be a World Cup ambassador for Saint Petersburg, a city where globally renowned culture and sport are key symbols,” the singer declared.
One of the more unusual ambassadors has already done their bit for a Russia 2018 host city, and not down here on Earth but actually from space. Oleg Kononenko represented Samara on board the International Space Station (ISS) and the Russian astronaut even posed for photos on the satellite wearing a football shirt and holding a Samara flag.
“I received the offer to be a World Cup ambassador while on expedition at the ISS in 2015 and accepted it with great joy,” Kononenko revealed to FIFA.com. “I have children and I really want the young generation to grow up intelligent, healthy and curious. Football is close to the hearts of so many people and I'm delighted to be part of the team preparing to host the World Cup, spreading positive values and promoting sport and a healthy way of life.”
The Russia 2018 ambassadors will go around the world speaking to people about the host cities at the tournament. There are no doubts that they will cope with this task as part of a superb dream team.
2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Host Cities Ambassadors
Oleg Shatov, Russia and FC Zenit St. Petersburg midfielder
Anton Shipulin, Russian biathlete, Olympic champion
Pavel Datsyuk, ice hockey player, Stanley Cup winner
Alexander Pantykin, playwriter, composer
Vyacheslav Butusov, singer, Nautilus Pompilius band ex-soloist
*Sergey Voytenko, bayan-player, international awards winner
Oleg Kononenko, cosmonaut, Hero of the Russian Federation
Tagir Haybulaev, djudoist, Olympic champion
*Dmitry Cheryshev, ex-Russia player, Sevilla FC coach
Denis Cheryshev, Russia and Valencia CF player
Vladimir and Sergey Kristovsky, singers, musicians, Uma2rman band participants
*Alexey Nemov, gymnast, Olympic champion
*Yelena Isinbayeva, pole vaulter, Olympic champion
*Vasily Gerello, opera singer
*Natalia Ischenko, swimmer, Olympic champion
*Dmitry Dibrov, TV presenter
Viktoria Lopyreva, model, TV presenter
Varteres Samurgashev, Greco-Roman wrestler, Olympic champion