MOSCOW, December 27. /TASS/. The currently under-construction stadium in St. Petersburg, one of the 11 cities in Russia selected to host the matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, might be commissioned by the end of this week, Alexei Sorokin, the director general of Russia-2018 Local Organizing Committee (LOC), told TASS on Tuesday.
"They have promised to commission the stadium in 2016 and the year is not over yet," Sorokin said in an interview with TASS. "We hope they will commission it by the New Year holidays."
The stadium designed to host the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2018 FIFA World Cup matches was laid down in the western portion of Krestovsky Island in St. Petersburg in 2007. The construction project was amended three times: in 2008, 2010 and 2013.
Each time, the cost of the arena was increased from the initial estimate of 6.7 billion rubles ($268 million at the average ruble/US dollar exchange rate for 2007) to possible 43.8 billion rubles (some $717 million at the current exchange rate).
In mid-November, former St. Petersburg vice governor Marat Oganesyan was detained as part of a criminal probe into the football stadium’s construction. The law enforcement agencies said corruption schemes organized by Oganesyan inflicted damage of over 50 million rubles ($769,000 at that time’s exchange rate) to the St. Petersburg budget.
Sorokin also said that "there is still time left and that is why we keep waiting, but in any case the stadiums in St. Petersburg and Sochi must be also operationally equipped."
"This is why we will also need time for the operational launch and the adjustment of the facilities to FIFA requirements," he said. "Trial matches in Sochi and St. Petersburg have been scheduled for March 28 and early April respectively."
The Russian Football Union (RFU) announced earlier in the month that over 47,700-seat capacity Fisht football arena in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi would host on March 28 a friendly match between the Russian national football team with the national squad from Belgium.
The 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup will be held next year between June 17 and July 2 at four stadiums in Russia and they are Otkritie-Arena in Moscow, St. Petersburg Arena, Fisht in Sochi and Kazan-Arena in Kazan.
Russia is currently in full-swing preparations for the global football tournaments 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.