MOSCOW – Brazil barely managed to get everything ready in time for the World Cup that ended last weekend.
Russia insists it won’t have any such problems in 2018, although the country faces other issues ahead of soccer’s next showcase tournament — including the threat of racism and violence.
As was the case with Brazil, the sheer size of Russia is set to cause logistical challenges for organizers and fans alike for the 2018 World Cup, with thousands of miles separating some of the host cities. But the successful staging of February’s Winter Olympics without any major organizational problems raised the Russians’ confidence they can produce a high-class tournament.
After the Games, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told parliament Russia would avoid the “Brazilian scenario” of massive construction delays.
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Of the 12 stadiums in 11 host cities, two are complete but must be reconfigured to host soccer matches. A third, the Spartak Stadium in Moscow, will open in September. Others, including Moscow’s 81,000-capacity Luzhniki where the final will be played, are new projects where construction has either started or will begin this year.
A bigger issue might be racism from fans. There have been several incidents in Russian club football in recent years.
Monkey chants aimed at Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure by CSKA Moscow fans during a Champions League game in November earned the Russian club the first of two UEFA racism sanctions last season, and highlighted Russian soccer’s problems with discrimination and violence.
“Russian football is a making certain efforts towards combating (racism),” organizing committee head Alexei Sorokin said. “This thing exists everywhere; we are no exception. So we are going to do what we can.”