MOSCOW, March 16. /TASS/. The International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA) is completely satisfied with the way Russia is preparing to host the 2018 World Cup, Alexei Sorokin, the director general of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) Russia-2018, told TASS on Wednesday.
Switzerland’s Zurich is hosting on Wednesday a session of the FIFA organizing committee on the current preparations for the 2018 World Cup. The session is attended by new FIFA President Gianni Infantino, elected to this post on February 26.
"There is no criticism on behalf of FIFA at all," Sorokin said in an interview with TASS.
Sorokin said that besides the current state of Russia’s preparations for the much-anticipated global football tournament, participants in the session also discussed the timetable for the matches of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The final timetable is scheduled to be approved at the FIFA Executive Committee’s session in Zurich on March 17-18.
Asked when new FIFA President Infantino was planning to pay a visit to Russia, Sorokin said "Infantino will be discussing his visit with [Russian Sports Minister] Vitaly Mutko."
"He initially planned to visit our country in April. I believe this it when it [the visit] will eventually take place," Sorokin added.
Russia won the bid to host the 2018 World Cup at the FIFA Congress in Guatemala on December 4, 2010 in a tight race against the bid from England, the joint bid from Portugal and Spain and the joint bid on behalf of Belgium and the Netherlands.
The country later 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.
Last September, a total of 33 cities across Russia involving over 450,000 people were celebrating the 1,000-day countdown to the 2018 World Cup.
Main celebrations of Russia’s countdown to the FIFA World Cup, which was inaugurated almost a century ago and takes place once in four years, were held in the Russian capital of Moscow.
Last summer Russia’s second largest city of St. Petersburg was the venue for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Preliminary Draw, which is the first major kick-off event ahead of the global tournament itself. A total of 208 nations participated in the event on July 25 and it was for the first time in the history of World Cups, when all national teams registered for the Preliminary Draw.
The authorities of St. Petersburg provided FIFA with guarantees that currently under construction Zenit Arena in Russia’s second largest city will be commissioned in due time, i.e. for hosting matches of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, Alexei Sorokin, the director general of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) Russia-2018, told TASS on Wednesday.
"The municipal administration of St. Petersburg provided FIFA with written guarantees that the stadium on the Krestovsky Island will be commissioned in time," Sorokin said in an interview with TASS. "We have no reasons not to believe them."
The currently under construction 69,000-seat capacity Zenit Arena is also one of the 12 stadiums in 11 cities across Russia to host the matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The estimated cost of the construction, which began in 2006, stands at 34.9 billion rubles (some $450 million).
Media reports in mid-January alleged that FIFA could deny St. Petersburg the right of hosting the matches of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup at the Zenit Arena as the construction was delayed.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko denied the reports at that time saying in particular that "the issue of relocating the tournament from St. Petersburg is not on the agenda" and later announced that the stadium would be commissioned this year.
The 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup will be held between June 17 and July 2 at four stadiums in Russia and they are Otkritie-Arena in Moscow, Zenit-Arena in St. Petersburg, Fisht in Sochi and Kazan-Arena in Kazan.
Five nations have already qualified for the 2017 Confederations Cup and they are hosts Russia, 2014 FIFA World Cup Champions Germany, 2015 Copa America Champions Chile, 2015 AFC Asian Cup Champion Australia and 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup winners Mexico.
Three more nations will be determined following the 2016 UEFA Euro Cup, the OFC (Oceania Football Confederation) Nations Cup and 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.