World Cup fever

Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium is currently the only one in thecountry that meets all international criteria

Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium is currently the only one in thecountry that meets all international criteria

A recent scandal in Britain is drawing much attention to Russia’s ambitious bid to host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022.

A secretly taped conversation involving the head of England’s Football Association – whose rival bid for the games is seen as Russia’s most difficult opponent – featured a claim that Spain and Russia would collude in match-fixing at this year’s tournament in South Africa if the Spanish stepped aside in the race to host the 2018 finals.

Lord Triesman, whose comments appeared in the British national press, has resigned as chairman of England’s bid while the FA has sent letters of apology to Moscow and Madrid. But that is unlikely to be enough to undo the damage that Triesman’s comments will have caused the English bid.

And with the battle to be Europe’s next host likely to become a straight fight between England and Russia, that could be enough to tip the scales in favour of the Russian Football Union.

Russia’s ‘remarkable’ bid

Russia submitted its bid for the World Cup, putting forward proposals for a tournament held in 13 cities in European Russia.

Ambitiously, the scheme involves building almost every stadium from scratch – at present only Moscow’s Luzhniki is up to the required standard, although facilities under construction for the 2013 Olympiade in Kazan and 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi are also part of the grand plan.

And it would introduce first-class venues to a number of cities with little tradition of top-flight football – including Kaliningrad, Yaroslavl, Saransk and Sochi.

The work required to deliver this bid contrasts sharply with England's proposals, which are centred on existing, world-famous stadiums including Wembley, Old Trafford and Anfield.

But Fifa president Sepp Blatter, who described England's bid as “the easiest in the world” to support, said Russia’s proposals were “remarkable”.



Good for business

Hosting the football World Cup finals in 2018 or 2022 will boost the development of Russia’s sport and tourist infrastructure, first deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov said .

“These are immense opportunities for business… That’s what we call associated infrastructure – hotels, city infrastructure,” Shuvalov said at the presentation of Russia’s bid to host the football tournament.

The announcement came as Russia and other countries bidding to host the World Cup prepared to submit their bid books to Fifa.

Shuvalov, who chairs the committee overseeing the Russian bid, said Russia had every right to host the World Cup because of its vast experience in holding international sports competitions, including football.

Shuvalov declined to specify the amount of money to be spent on developing the infrastructure, as well as the proposed budget of the competition, but Alexei Sorokin, chief executive of the Russian Football Union, said the assigned money “would satisfy Fifa”.

Sports, tourism and youth politics minister Vitaly Mutko said the budget for the project “would be comparable to the budget Germany spent on hosting the World Cup”.

Analysts said Russia might actually need more money than Germany for its World Cup.

“Germany had a more developed infrastructure when it won the right to host the World Cup. Germany didn’t have to do such a big amount of work,” said Andrei Rozhkov, an infrastructure analyst at Metropol.

Russia plans to build 16 stadiums in 13 cities, including Moscow, St Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Rostov-on-Don, Sochi, Samara and Nizhny Novgorod. Construction costs for a single stadium range from $70m to $300m, Rozhkov said.
Infrastructure projects for the tournament will mostly be funded by private investors, Shuvalov said.
Prime minister Vladimir Putin said last year that hosting the World Cup was “a nationwide task” for the country. But Russia will develop transport and sports infrastructure even if it loses its bid, Shuvalov said.

“We must do that anyway, because we must make our country better,” he added.

Mutko said that hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, “strengthened Russia’s position” in the competition.

Olympic construction is currently estimated to be costing about $12bn, but preparing a World Cup would probably be cheaper, because there will be no need for such a large-scale reconstruction of infrastructure, Rozhkov said.

Russia’s lack of hotels and stadiums may play to its advantage, because Fifa is interested in developing foot ball infrastructure worldwide, and the other bidders already have such infrastructure developed, Shuvalov said.

Also in the running for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup are England, the United States, Australia and two joint bids from Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium. The 2018 tournament is tipped to take place in Europe, while Japan, Qatar and South Korea are aiming solely at the 2022 tournament.

The most serious rivals for Russia are England and the Spain-Portugal tandem, Mutko said. Fifa’s commission, which will evaluate Russia’s bid to host the World Cup, will arrive in Russia on August 16. It plans to visit some of the cities mentioned in the bid, including Moscow, St Petersburg, Kazan and Nizhny Novgorod.

Fifa’s executive committee will select the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 competitions in ballot vote in Zurich on December 2.

This article was compiled from reports appearing in The Moscow Times and The Moscow News.

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