Construction of the stadia Russia plans to use for the 2018 World Cup is “ahead of schedule”, according to a delegation from FIFA (the Fédération Internationale de Football Association) which has visited four host cities over the past week.
The build-up to the World Cup in Brazil earlier this year was plagued by concerns over the late running of the stadium-building programme.
But the 40-strong FIFA inspection team which visited the Russia venues seemed satisfied with progress.
The group visited stadia in St Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan and Moscow, led by Chris Unger, head of the FIFA monitoring committee.
The £340M reconstruction of Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium – the venue for the 2018 World Cup Final – was declared to be “ahead of schedule”.
The Luzhniki, opened in 1956 as the Central Lenin Stadium, was the venue for the 1980 Olympic Games and the 2008 Champions League final. It was also the scene of Russia’s worst sporting disaster in 1982, when 66 people died after a stampede during a match between FC Spartak Moscow and HFC Haarlem.
The stadium is still at least 18 months from completion following the decision to entirely rebuild the inside of the stadium while retaining its original outer shell.
Spartak Moscow’s 45,000-capacity Otkrytie Arena has already been completed at a cost of £300M, and officially opened in August.
“They seem to be ahead of schedule here,” Unger said. “The venues are all at a different state.
“One is a construction site, in St Petersburg, while we have two stadiums that are finished in Kazan and the new Spartak Stadium across the city here in Moscow.
“In Sochi we have a mix, because it is partially finished and the stadium needs to be constructed again (following the Winter Olympics).”
The inspectors will return in six or nine months for a further progress update.
Russia is planning to use 12 stadiums across 11 host cities for the tournament: Kaliningrad, Kazan, Moscow (two stadia), Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don, Saint Petersburg, Samara, Saransk, Sochi, Volgograd, and Yekaterinburg. All the cities are in or just outside European Russia to reduce travel time for teams.