MOSCOW, February 4. /TASS/. The number of stadiums across Russia selected to host the matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup will remain unchanged as the last chance to review the concept of the much-anticipated global event was in June of 2014, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Wednesday.
"We have passed the point of no return," Mutko said. "The concept of the tournament’s organization has been approved and is not subject to changes. The last chance to introduce chances was in June last year, when FIFA President Sepp Blatter and members of the FIFA Executive Committee were not against the idea of reducing the number of hosting cities."
"However, Blatter voiced his support for the initiative to reduce the seating capacity of the stadiums in Kaliningrad and Yekaterinburg from 45,000 to 35,000," Mutko said. "It helped to considerably cut expenses and to solve the issue."
Last Thursday Mutko announced that Russia would cut its budget spending on the organization of the 2018 World Cup, but would keep its expenditures on the infrastructure and stadium construction unchanged, despite ruble volatility.
According to the minister, financial programs of all departments involved in the organization of the global football championship were slashed by 10%, excluding spending items on the infrastructure.
Russia’s ruble slumped over the past four months to a record low of 75 rubles to the dollar in mid-December, compared to an average of 38 rubles in September, but rebounded to 53.23 by late December. The Russian currency currently stands at 68 rubles to dollar. It was traded at 33 rubles to the dollar at the start of 2014.
The total budget of 664.1 billion rubles for the organization of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia was announced in 2012. This figure stood at $20.5 billion based on the 2012 average exchange rate. If converted to the current exchange rate this figure drops to $9.9 billion.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said last August 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 won the bid to host the 2018 World Cup over four 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.
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 between June 14 and July 15 at 12 stadiums located in the 11 mentioned above cities across Russia. Two of the stadiums are located in the Russian capital.
A joint delegation of FIFA representatives and Russia’s Local Organizing Committee inspected on October 16-23 the construction and the state of readiness of Russian stadiums, which were selected to host the World Cup matches in 2018.
Christian Unger, the head of FIFA 2018 football championship preparation department, said following the delegation’s visit that he was satisfied with Russia’s preparations for the world championship.
The delegation began its visit to Russia with the inspection of the currently under-construction stadium in St. Petersburg, moving afterwards to Kazan on the Volga River to see the Kazan-Arena, then to Sochi to evaluate the Fisht Stadium and finally visited the Otkritie Arena and Luzhniki Arena in Moscow.
Between October 21 and 23 the delegation was presented with virtual tours across the remaining Russian stadiums, selected to host the championship’s matches. This was the first large-scale visit of FIFA evaluation commission to inspect the readiness of the Russian cities for the 2018 World Cup and there were planned seven more similar inspections before the launch of the world championship.