Russia eyes 'unforgettable' World Cup

Russia 2018 (Supplied)
Russia 2018 (Supplied)

Moscow - Alexei Sorokin has the daunting task of making sure Russia is ready to host fans and teams from around the globe at the World Cup in 2018.

One year ahead of the tournament, the CEO of Russia's organising committee is looking to meet construction deadlines and calm security fears as the country gears up for the warm-up Confederations Cup on June 17.

Q - What does it mean for Russia to host the Confederations Cup and World Cup?

A - We were so excited when FIFA entrusted us with holding the World Cup. It's the first time this event will take place in Eastern Europe. And for us it's a great chance to present our country to the entire world the best way. And we will be happy to host all the guests, who decide to attend the events, and to make their stay here pleasant and unforgettable.

Q - What have been the major challenges in preparing for the Confederations and the World Cups across such a vast country?

A - The preparations for the World Cup are still going on but I can say that we experienced few troubles in our preparations for these events so far. The preparations for the Confederations Cup run smoothly as the four cities that will host the event (Moscow, St Petersburg, Kazan and Sochi) are well-known sporting centres with developed infrastructure and solid experience of staging major events. And they're all ready to receive the large flow of tourists.

Q - There are serious worries over hooliganism and racism at these events and critics say Russian officials do not take the problems seriously enough. How can Russia ensure safe and enjoyable tournaments for fans?

A - Of course there have been outbreaks of racism in Russia in the past and sometimes they still happen here. However it's definitely not a steady trend in our country. Russia's multi-ethnic society is not mired in racism. For me it's an obvious fact.

The clashes between the fans in Marseille last year were a kind of ugly deeds. But Russia's authorities have worked out a comprehensive security concept that will act during these football tournaments to avoid any chance of the repetition of such kind of events here. We're confident that the Confederations and World Cups in Russia will be completely safe.

We've implemented the special Fan ID, which gives football lovers from all over the world the right to enter the country without a visa and to move between the host cities for free during the events. But this ID will also serve as an additional security measure.

A number of international agreements have been recently signed giving Russia's law enforcement authorities a chance to exchange information with foreign police to identify the worst hooligans and keep them from football venues.

Q - Critics say that hosting of these major events is a PR stunt Russia's President Vladimir Putin, but offers little for average Russians. How can you ensure there is a lasting, positive legacy from these tournaments?

A - I think it's not fair to say that the hosting of major football tournaments is just a PR move for the Kremlin. Russia has invested huge sums into the preparations for the Confederations and the World Cups.

The infrastructure in the host cities was being upgraded anyway but the World Cup has sped up this process a great deal. The preparations for the World Cup have developed not only the football venues and training grounds but the transportation systems, the hotel networks and other facilities in the host cities.

It will definitely be good for people regardless of their relation to football. I believe that you can't argue with these benefits.

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