Friday, August 8, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Russia Far Behind Schedule in Preparations for 2018 World Cup

Paul Goble


            Staunton, August 8 – Only two of the 12 venues in Russia for the 2018 World Cup are ready, three others are slated for massive reconstruction, and seven have not even been started, a pattern that is starting to raise concerns about Moscow’s ability to host the games even as some groups are calling on FIFA to shift the competition to another country.


            In today’s “Novyye izvestiya,” journalist Dmitry Okunyev says the current state of Russian preparations is already sparking “concerns” in Russia even though the first games are not scheduled to take place for 46 months and even though much can be done in the intervening period (


            The five stadiums either ready or facing reconstruction were built long before any plans were made for the 2018 World Cup; the seven to be built from scratch were announced as part of Russia’s proposal to be host. But in the 42 months since it won that right, Okunyev says, almost nothing has been done even to start these massive projects.


            Vyacheslav Kolskov, honorary president of the Russian Football Union, recently expressed concerns about the difficulties those planning to build the stadiums continue to face in getting building permits and other official clearances. But Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko says that “all remaining state contracts will be signed before October 10 of this year.”


            The challenges vary widely among the sites.  In Samara, the cost of the new stadium was reduced by some 10 billion rubles (300 million US dollars) when organizers agreed to move it from a spit on the riverside to a working class district.  And officials say that everything will be ready by mid-2017.


            In Yekaterinburg, there are problems because FIFA is requiring the builders to expand the stadium by 12,000 seats. But both there and at the Moscow site, any changes must contend with rules about architectural monuments, and those problems have not yet been fully addressed in either place.


            Elsewhere, in places where entirely new stadiums are to be built, “the situation is still approximately the same” – there are disagreements on location, size, and financing, and some involved are threatening to not start building at all unless and until Moscow comes up with more financing.


Some are facing problems with their sites. In Kaliningrad, the ground is unstable and officials there are not yet prepared to say when construction might even begin.  In Nizhny Novgorod and Volgograd, disputes among the relevant parties are delaying things as well, the Moscow journalist says.


There likely is plenty of time for Russian builders to start and finish these projects, but the existence of these problems will likely energize those groups abroad who believe that Russia should be denied the right to hold them because of the Russian government’s actions in Ukraine or because of the behavior of Russian fans.


And the enormous costs of these facilities may be a problem domestically especially if Russian government revenues continue to fall, and the Russian population can see with its own eyes the ways in which Moscow’s spending on such projects is taking money away from programs that benefit them.

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