“We have just recently discussed this issue in the government and decided against reducing the number of cities selected to host the 2018 World Cup matches,” Putin said, addressing participants of the Seliger Youth Forum in central Russia.
One of the forum’s participants expressed his worry that considering the current political situation Russia could be deprived of the right to host the global football championship in 2018. “I hope this will not happen,” Putin said. “FIFA stated earlier that football and sports on the whole are beyond politics. I believe this is the only correct approach.”
Some of the Western politicians earlier voiced calls to strip Russia of the right to host the World Cup as a form of penalty regarding Moscow’s stance on the developments in neighboring Ukraine.
In particular, British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said in July an interview with the Sunday Times that it was “unthinkable” for the global football contest to take place in Russia and stripping the country of the event would be a "very potent political and symbolic sanction".
Football’s governing body, however, spoke against the possibility of relocating the 2018 World Cup, insisting that the tournament in Russia could be “a force for good".
''History has shown so far that boycotting sport events or a policy of isolation or confrontation are not the most effective ways to solve problems,'' FIFA said in its statement in July.
Speaking further about the 2018 World Cup, the Russian president said that for Russia it was important not only to host the world football championship, but to use it as a tool for the development of sports and transport infrastructure.
Putin admitted that in terms of financial spending the World Cup for Russia will be an "uneasy story".
He thanked the International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA) and its President Sepp Blatter for permission to reduce the capacity of stadiums from 45,000 seats to 35,000 seats.
“This reduces construction costs,” he said adding that such decision was made by FIFA “not to make something pleasant for us [Russia], but basing on the analysis results of stadiums use at the World Cup in Brazil.”
Russia won the bid to host the 2018 World Cup over three years ago in a tight race against the joint bid from England, Portugal and Spain and the joint bid on behalf of Belgium and the Netherlands.
Shortly before Brazil’s fabulous city of Rio de Janeiro dropped the curtains on the 2014 World Cup with the final Germany-Argentina clash on July 13, the baton of the global football tournament’s hosting nations was passed on to Russia.
The symbolic hand-over ceremony of the right to host the World Cup tournament was held at the iconic 74,700-seat capacity Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro and was attended by FIFA President Blatter, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Russian President Putin.
Blatter said earlier that he intended to pay a visit to Russia in September to monitor the preparation work for the championship in 2018.
Following an official ceremony held in September 2012 and attended by Blatter, Russia eventually selected 11 out of the earlier proposed 13 cities, excluding Krasnodar and Yaroslavl. The final list of the 2018 World Cup host cities includes Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Samara.