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FIFA rates Russia’s World Cup preparations ‘good’

FIFA rates  Russia’s World Cup preparations ‘good’

MOSCOW: Preparations for next year’s World Cup finals in Russia are on track but lots of work remains to be done, a top official of global football’s governing body FIFA said on Thursday.

“In general the state of readiness is good, planning is good and on track,” Colin Smith, FIFA’s director of competitions, told reporters in Moscow after an inspection of host cities.

But he cautioned: “There are still some risks and a significant amount of work to be done, especially in the next two-three months to have all the infrastructure in terms of construction and some of the commissioning works completed by the end of the year.”

“We look forward to the test matches because ultimately that’s the first opportunity we’ll get to see the facilities in action,” Smith added.

Smith, who heads the FIFA operational commission, said during the 10-day inspection tour his board had focused on the cities and venues that did not host matches for the Confederations Cup last summer.

“We’ve looked at the readiness of not only the stadiums but the host cities [as a] whole, so we looked at the training sites, hotels, airports and the general road infrastructure.”

Russian officials have been positive about the country’s progress but concede that work on some venues is behind schedule.

President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday said the overall state of the venues was satisfactory but admitted that delays remained.

Construction on the 45,000-seat stadium in Samara — which will host six World Cup matches, including a quarter-final — has been plagued with delays over recent months.

The company building the stadium said in August it was 30 days behind schedule but that they hoped to finish work on the venue by the end of the year, the initial deadline for its completion.

“The contractors, the city, the region, all relevant bodies have indicated that they are able to deliver the stadium by the end of the year,” Smith said of Samara.

“That’s one of the cases where the timelines are tight and they need to be respected.”

Russia showcased four of its 12 World Cup venues during this year’s Confederations Cup, a two-week tournament that featured the home country, defending world champions Germany and the champions from FIFA’s regional confederations.

And the FIFA commission boss dismissed security fears, arguing that the Russian organisers’ security strategy had passed a serious test during the Confederations Cup.

“For the World Cup there’s a detailed security concept in place,” Smith said. “We saw it was very well implemented during the Confederations Cup where no incidents were noted.

“The vast majority of the fans that will come to the World Cup are here to celebrate, to party and to have a good time. But if anyone comes with the other intentions than that’s why the security plans are in place to ensure that it doesn’t negatively impact on anyone.”

Smith also said FIFA fully backed the Russian authorities’ plans to issue an official identity document called a FanID to all those attending World Cup matches.

The FanID gives supporters visa-free entry to Russia as well as some free travel between cities hosting games and free use of municipal public transport on matchdays.

Russia is set to host the World Cup from June 14 to July 15 in 12 venues spread across 11 cities — Moscow, St Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Samara.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2017

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