MOSCOW, June 8. /TASS/. An opening football game at the recently reconstructed legendary sports arena Luzhniki, located in the heart of the nation’s capital, Moscow, will be held this coming October or later, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko told TASS on Thursday.
Mutko, who is also the president of the Russian Football Union (RFU), paid a visit to Luzhniki Arena today along with Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin. They both attended a joint conference on Moscow’s preparations for hosting matches of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
"The stadium is ready," Mutko said in an interview with TASS. "We will soon wrap up with works on the provision of public amenities near the stadium."
"This is a high-level sports arena and I hope that it would continue serving the residents of Moscow as well as guests of the Russian capital for the long time to come," he said.
Mutko stated earlier in the day that the official opening ceremony of the stadium, selected to host games of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, would be held with a match of the Russian national football team.
Commenting on Moscow’s level of preparedness for hosting the matches of the 2017 Confederations Cup and the 2018 World Cup, Russia’s top football official said that the Russian capital is now at the highest possible level of readiness.
"No doubts that Moscow would host the Confederations Cup and World Cup matches at the highest possible level," Mutko said.
The deputy prime minister added that international teams had already started arriving in Russia and the country’s organizing system of the FIFA tournament had been flawlessly functioning without any glitches.
"I would like to tell all of you that the teams began arriving and the first national squad to come here was from Chile," Mutko said addressing journalists in Moscow.
"There were no issues regarding their reception upon the landing as well as the clearance of all procedures at the Moscow transport hub," the deputy PM said.
Mutko also reiterated that a visa-free regime was enforced starting on June 7 for all foreigners coming to Russia with tickets for football matches and so-called ‘Fan-IDs,’ saying that over 30 people had been already cleared by the Russian customs with such documents on hands.
Moscow offers two stadiums as venues for the global football championship, which will be held next year, and they are the recently-built Otkritie-Arena, which opened on September 5, 2014, and Moscow’s famous Luzhniki Arena, which is intended to host the opening match, one of the semifinals and the final match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Refurbishment on the Luzhniki Arena was launched in 2013 and once the work was completed, the stadium extended its spectator capacity boasting up to 81,000 seats.
This is the second grand reconstruction of the stadium, which was initially built in 1957. The first major repair works on the stadium took place in the run-up to the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow.
Following the current reconstruction efforts, the athletics tracks inside the stadium were removed, the spectators’ stand are now rectangular in form and moved closer to the pitch, while the number of tiers will be increased to 16 from the previous 13.
According to the FIFA.com website, one of the main aspects of the reconstruction project is to preserve the historical facade of the stadium, which since 1956 has 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 musical performers."
The Luzhniki Arena’s principal affinity, however, was with football since over 3,000 matches have been played there over the years.
Russia 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.