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STRELNA, July 25. /TASS/. The traditional Preliminary Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, to be held in 11 different cities across Russia in less than three years, kicked off with an astounding show in the country’s second largest city of St. Petersburg on Saturday night.
"I am glad to welcome you all here," Russian President Vladimir Putin said opening the ceremony of the draw along with FIFA President Sepp Blatter. "Today is the historic day for the sport number one in the world and it is the sport of football."
"Football is one of the most popular sports in Russia and all over the world," Putin said. "Our country has long and strong traditions of football. I am sure that we will be growing new talents. Russia’s organization of the 2018 FIFA World Cup will help to further popularize the sport of football in Russia."
"We will do everything to provide security at the championship," the Russian president said. "I would like to reiterate that all obligations undertaken by Russia will be implemented. I wish the good luck at the Preliminary Draw."
Taking the floor of the opening ceremony FIFA chief Blatter said "I would like to thank President Putin."
"Dear friends in football it is great pleasure to be here in St. Petersburg," the 79-year-old head of the global governing body of football said.
"Today is an important day. Russia will be fantastical. We are looking forward for the exiting evening, for the exciting Draw and exciting Russia," Blatter said.
Top-model and well-known philanthropist from Russia Natalia Vodianova and Russia’s TV presenter Dmitry Shepelev are running the show of the Preliminary Draw.
Following the opening words from Putin and Blatter the show proceeded with the spectacular vocal and dance show performed by the Terem-Quartet artistic group.
FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke joined the duo of Vodianova and Shepelev to take charge of the actual Draw procedure to determine the pairs of the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Preliminary Competition is underway at the historic Konstantinovsky Palace, a stronghold of Russia’s rich culture located on the Gulf of Finland’s stunning shoreline. It used to serve in the 18th century as one of the residences of Russia’s imperial family.
A total of over 200 nations have signed up for the Preliminary Draw, which is the first major kick-off event ahead of the global tournament itself.
The World Cup’s Preliminary Draw, which was first broadcast on television in 1971, underwent a remarkable evolutionary process throughout the years and is seen as the most to important cultural showpiece and the kick-start event for the championship itself.
In different decades and years this cultural showpiece was staged on numerous prominent global venues, including Louvre Museum in Paris, Madison Square Garden in New York and many others, and, according to FIFA official website, Russia’s St. Petersburg will continue "the tradition of memorable draws."
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.