MOSCOW, October 20. /TASS/. Current political situation and the recent pressure on Moscow from the West should not affect Russia’s preparations for hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2018 as football and politics should not be mixed together, Alexey Sorokin, the CEO of Russia 2018 organizing committee, said,
“We have full support from FIFA,” Sorokin said in an exclusive interview with CNN, aired on Monday. “We don’t see any reason why the World Cup should be affected by any political developments. It’s a very peaceful, a very joyful tournament, which has nothing to do with the politics.”
Some of the Western politicians earlier voiced calls to strip Russia of the right to host the World Cup in 2018 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 a July 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 right to hold the event would be a "very potent political and symbolic sanction."
World 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 World Cup in Russia, Sorokin said that the country wants “to make sure that everybody is welcome here and everybody will feel great during the World Cup.”
Asked what would be the main selling point for the World Cup in Russia, Sorokin said it would be “the spirit of new changed Russia.” “Possibly it will be about disbanding certain stereotypes, which might float around in other societies,” he told CNN. “We would like to show a true open nation, a very hospitable nation.”
Commenting on numerous media reports concerning safety and human rights situation in Russia ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, hosted by Russia earlier in the year, Sorokin said most of them were not true and the Games proved it in the end. “There were many fears, which in the end did not turn into reality. And that is one of the good things about Sochi. We do not know where they (fears) came from and what was the reason why they appeared,” he said.
Russia’s Black Sea resort city of Sochi hosted in February and March the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, which, according to international sports officials, athletes and visitors, were organized at the highest level possible and provided up-to-date infrastructure at all levels, as well as security for all participants in the event.
Commenting on recent disciplinary sanctions in regard to Russian football clubs over misbehavior of their fans, who are in particular accused of race-hate attitude during matches, Sorokin said no such behavior must be allowed. “The World Cup is not the place for discrimination and that involves human rights as well,” he said.
Asked whether he gets to talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin often during the preparations for the World Cup, Sorokin said it would have been better to put question about how deeply the president was involved in the run-up to the global football championship.
“What is important is that he (Putin) knows everything that is happening in the preparations for the World Cup,” Sorokin told CNN. “He is involved in that, he sees (FIFA) President (Sepp) Blatter regularly. He is aware of everything that is happening around the World Cup in our country.”
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.
In August, Putin said that the number of 12 stadiums in a total of 11 cities selected to host the World Cup would not be changed. The Russian president said, however, that in terms of financial spending on the World Cup preparations for Russia would be an “uneasy story,” but manageable.
Russia selected 11 host cities to be the venues for the matches of the 2018 World Cup and they are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Samara.
The matches of the 2018 World Cup will be held at 12 stadiums located in the 11 mentioned above cities across Russia. Two of the stadiums are located in the Russian capital.