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MOSCOW, April 19. /TASS/. The currently reconstructed Luzhniki Arena in Moscow, one of the 12 stadiums selected to host matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, is the most suitable venue for holding world’s important football events, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said on Tuesday.
Infantino, elected the president of the world’s governing body of football less than two months ago, is paying his first official visit to Russia on April 19-20 in his new capacity.
Jointly with Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin he is inspecting on Tuesday morning the course of the reconstruction works at the Luzhniki Arena in the Russian capital.
According to the FIFA president, the stadium looks very impressive and a lot has changed since he visited the venue last time.
"It looks really impressive. The stadium here is different compared to when I came here last time," Infantino said. "Inside you really feel the atmosphere of football. So this is the right venue for the most important football events of the world."
"On the outside you have kept the traditional [exterior of the stadium], the history," he said. "So you have combined the traditions, history and modernity."
"It [the stadium] will be great for the players, for the fans," the FIFA president added. "Moscow is a great city and it will be ready to host the World Cup
Moscow has two stadiums to serve as the venues for the global football championship, to be held in less than three years, and they are the recently-built Otkritie-Arena, which opened on September 5, 2014, and Moscow’s old Luzhniki Arena, which is intended to host the opening fixture and the final match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Reconstruction works at the Luzhniki Arena were launched in 2013 and after the works are completed the stadium will boost the spectators’ capacity of over 81,000 seats.
This is the second grand reconstruction of the stadium, which was initially built in 1957. The first grand reconstruction of the stadium took place in the run-up to the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow.
Following the current reconstruction works, the athletics tracks inside the stadium will be removed, the spectators’ stand will be made rectangular and moved closer to the pitch, while the number of tiers will be increased up to 16 from the previously exploited 13.
According to the FIFA.com website, one of the main aspects of the reconstruction works project is to preserve the historical facade of the stadium, which since 1956 hosted "a multitude of major sporting and cultural events, including the 1980 Summer Olympics, world championships in ice hockey, athletics and rugby and concerts featuring some of the world's greatest musicians."
The Luzhniki Arena’s principal affinity, however, was with football as over 3,000 matches were played there over the years.
Former UEFA Secretary General Infantino, 45, was one of the five candidates running for the FIFA presidency and on February 26 at the Extraordinary Congress in Zurich he was voted in the second ballot by the organization’s member associations to take charge of the world’s governing body of football.
Russia is currently in full-swing preparations for the global football championship after the country won the bid to host the 2018 World Cup at the FIFA Congress in Guatemala on December 4, 2010. The victory came following 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 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.