Friday,23 March, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1373, (14 - 20 December 2017)
Friday,23 March, 2018
Issue 1373, (14 - 20 December 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Russia is getting ready

The World Cup hosts are close to finishing their 2018 stadiums. Hany Danial reports from Moscow


luzhniki Stadium

Saudi Arabia will be the first Asian team to play in the World Cup curtain raiser when they face hosts Russia, who were seeded top for the first time, on 14 June.

Russia’s other opponents in Group A are Uruguay, led by Barcelona’s Luis Suarez, and Egypt.

The opener will be played in Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, one of the 12 stadiums the World Cup matches will be played in. Let’s look at where the 32 teams will play their 64 games during the month-long football showcase.

Five arenas are already in working order. Spartak Stadium in Moscow, Fisht Stadium in Sochi and Kazan Arena and the Saint Petersburg Stadium all hosted matches at the FIFA Confederations Cup in June and July of this year. Also, Luzhniki Stadium – the main venue for the World Cup – recently reopened following major reconstruction for a friendly between Russia and Argentina.

Preparations have entered their final stages at the tournament’s seven other stadiums, and soon they too will be ready to welcome supporters from all over the world.

Al-Ahram Weekly participated in the Luzhniki media tour, and participated in an open dialogue with Nikolay Gulyaev, head of the Moscow Sports and Tourism Department, about its facilities.

Redevelopment works entailed the complete reconstruction of the stands, now divided in two tiers, the removal of the running tracks, and an expanded roof structure. The characteristic exterior of the stadium has remained intact. Work was completed in the summer of 2017, and the first football match at the reopened stadium, a friendly between Russia and Argentina (0-1), was played on 11 November 2017.

Apart from the opening and final matches, Luzhniki will host three further first round group matches, a round of 16 match, and a semi-final.

Luzhniki was first opened in 1956. It has all safety measures in place and expects smooth-entering crowds, amid fears of overcrowding. A major station is also being built near the stadium’s headquarters to serve the masses, linking it to the major stations in Moscow.

The first match of the World Cup at Kaliningrad Stadium is on 16 June between Croatia and Nigeria – currently the venue is 90 per cent complete. The stadium’s metal structural shell has been fully assembled and weighs more than 15,000 tonnes. Seats are being fitted in the stands and decorating is ongoing in the stadium’s internal facilities.

One of the fixtures going ahead at Volgograd Arena is Tunisia-England on 18 June. The pitch at the newly-built arena has been installed and the turf is ready ahead of the winter months. Coloured windows and entrances at the stadium are also being installed, while in the stands, seats are being installed and protective barriers erected.

On 21 June, France will face Peru at Ekaterinburg Arena, the westernmost destination at Russia 2018. Experts suggest the stadium is 98 per cent complete. Parts of the old venue that have been preserved are now fully restored and act as a cultural heritage. The lighting system and multi-media façade have been constructed, the area surrounding the stadium is being redeveloped, and the facilities beneath the stadiums are being finished off.

Nizhny Novgorod Stadium is the location for Sweden-Korea Republic on 18 June. Work on the football pitch has reached completion and preparations are in the preliminary phase to erect the front face of the stadium, which is made from a white and blue wind-resistant membrane.

Colombia will play Japan on 19 June at the Mordovia Arena, where the piling and casting operations have been finished, along with the assembling of the metal framework, laying of the foundations of the pitch, and planting of the grass surface. Work continues on the stadium’s roof, façade and temporary stands.

Kazan Stadium

Rostov-on-Don will welcome Brazil and Switzerland for their game on 17 June. The suspended ceilings within the Rostov Arena are being finished off, the lifts and escalators are being built, and the doors fitted in. Redevelopment continues outside the stadium and the fences marking the edge of the facility’s grounds are being constructed.

The World Cup begins at the Samara Arena with Costa Rica’s fixture against Serbia on 17 June. The roof of this stadium is still under construction and decorations are ongoing on the venue’s façade and internal facilities. Work on the pitch is also well under way.

After the draw, ticket sales for FIFA’s flagship tournament resumed on 5 December. Fans from around the world will be able to apply for tickets exclusively on FIFA’s Website.

There is a random selection draw from 5 December 2017 until 31 January 2018.

Tickets purchased during sales phases one and two will be delivered free of charge to fans in the weeks leading up to the tournament, with deliveries planned to start in April/May 2018.

A total of 742,760 tickets were allocated during the two periods of sales phase one. While most of the applications came from Russia, international demand increased steadily and has accounted for 47 per cent of all applications so far. Fans from the US, Brazil, Germany, China, Mexico, Israel, Argentina, Australia and England all rank in the top 10 in this regard.

FIFA anticipates more than one million visitors to the World Cup.

Russia 2018

At the request of the Russian authorities, all fans attending matches at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia need to apply for a FAN ID – the official identity document issued to fans. Fans are encouraged to apply for this free document as soon as possible after they have received their ticket confirmation by email.

The FAN ID and a valid ticket are required for spectators to be able to enter the stadiums. Having a FAN ID gives fans additional benefits and services provided by the host country, such as visa-free entry to the Russian Federation, certain free inter-host city travel and free use of public transport on match days.

Learn Russian or become a stranger? Moscow’s metro system can seem impenetrable to non-Russians, so how will it cope with thousands of foreign football fans?

After the draw, Moscow started to finalise translating road signs and major stations into English, and to post posters on streets and major buildings.

“Signs are now being translated into English, and guidelines are being drawn up for the draw to ensure that the public can easily reach the stadium,” Moscow officials said.

St Petersburg’s representatives told the Weekly that the city is ready to host the tournament. The fans will find what they want in entertainment, transportation to attend matches, and enjoy nature, beaches and historical places.

The local World Cup committee dedicated passport control lanes for whoever has an accreditation card from FIFA, while exhaustive security checks will demand high numbers of staff to prevent long queues forming.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino expects Russia 2018 to become the best World Cup ever. Infantino invited World Cup 2018 fans to enjoy the Fan Festival held in all 11 host cities of the World Cup and will last throughout the tournament.

Memorable locations in the picturesque places of the central part of the cities will be chosen for the Fan Fest for fans who want to visit parts of Russia.

A new blue and red train dedicated to the upcoming World Cup has been launched on the Moscow Metro Circle Line.

Hitch a ride and meet the tournament’s official mascot: a wolf called Zabivaka.

Inside the carriages people can read interesting facts about previous tournaments, look at iconic football photos, and get acquainted with Zabivaka.

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