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MOSCOW, December 2. /TASS/. 2018 FIFA World Cup will show Russia as an open and democratic country, and the tournament should have a peacemaking mission, Russian Sports Minister and Chairman of the Russia-2018 Organizing Committee Vitaly Mutko told TASS.
Five years ago, on December 2, Russia won the bid to host 2018 FIFA World Cup.
"It happens more and more often that politics interferes into sports. World sports organization sometimes make unobjective decisions under pressure from political forces, public opinion. It is now hard for me to say what the political situation will be like in 2018. However, I would undoubtedly want the World Cup to become some kind of a conciliatory factor - that’s what sports should be. I want the World Cup to present Russia as an open and democratic country that has all possibilities for holding such large-scale tournaments," Mutko said.
The sports minister noted that the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) is satisfied with Russia’s preparations for 2018 World Cup. "A joint session of Russia-2018 Organizing Committee and FIFA was held recently. Our colleagues highly assessed Russia’s preparation pace and organization of events that have already passed - among them, in particular, was FIFA World Cup preliminary draw in St. Petersburg and launch of countdown to the event in Moscow. FIFA expressed confidence that the tournament will be held at the highest level. Russia-2018 Organizing Committee, regions, agencies are working on this with dedication so that the World Cup leaves a great heritage," Mutko continued.
According to the sports minister, several hundred thousand people will be involved in organizing the event. "They are people working in the sphere of services, employees of regional committees, stewards. Tens of thousands of people work at construction sites. There will be a considerable number of volunteers - 20 thousand people on the federal program and almost the same number on the regional program. The stage has started when the population of the country is becoming actively involved in preparations for the World Cup. A nation-wide voting will take place on choosing the tournament’s mascot," Mutko said.
The sports minister noted that Russia does not have serious difficulties when preparing for 2018 FIFA World Cup. "I do not see significant difficulties. There are problems on several facilities but the project of such scale cannot do without them at all. These problems are not critical, they are solvable," he stressed.
"Any internal challenges will always be surmountable with such support from the country’s president, prime minister. Of course, the financial crisis made us work on optimization of these or those decisions. It was necessary for effective use of budget funds. There are threats caused by external factors. They include, in particular, endless talks connected with the fact that Russia got the right to host the World Cup. It is very hard to fight this since the smallest chance you can imagine is artificially unwound. It is unwound against Russia and against football in general. Of course, these talks have absolutely nothing to do with the real state of affairs," the sports minister continued.
Mutko, who also serves as the President of the Russian Football Union (RFU), noted that no concrete tasks have been set yet for the Russian national team for 2018 FIFA World Cup. "The time for that has not come yet, we have not even played at UEFA Euro 2016," he said.
"A lot is being done for our country to successfully perform at the World Cup, including in terms of organizational decisions. The national team got the new coach (Leonid Slutsky). Under his leadership, the team entered Euro’s final stage. We defended the rights and possibilities of Russian players by introducing certain restrictions. All this, along with clubs’ performance at the European Cup and growing level of the tournament in Russia, should allow us to prepare well for hosting the World Cup," Mutko concluded.
Matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held between June 14 and July 15 at 12 stadiums in 11 Russian cities, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Sochi, Samara, Nizhny Novgorod, Kaliningrad, Rostov-on-Don, Yekaterinburg, Volgograd and Saransk.