How Russia is preparing for the FIFA World Cup 2018
In December 2010, FIFA shocked football confederations around the world when it awarded Russia with the 2018 World Cup. Despite the controversy that surrounded the decision, Russia 2018 is nearing kickoff as the country prepares for its biggest sporting event ever. The World Cup will see 32 nations descend on the country to play the five-week football tournament. Meanwhile, millions of fans will travel to Russia to watch live matches or experience the atmosphere of the fan zones. Russia 2018 is destined to be the biggest World Cup yet, and the country’s football association has been working around the clock to make the event a memorable one.
Russia and its World Cup organizers have built five brand-new stadiums in the run-up to the tournament. Meanwhile several other venues were built in the years following Russia being awarded the tournament. Fans will get to experience some of the best football venues in the world during Russia 2018.
While the stadiums are complete and nearly ready to go, there are a number of other areas organizers are getting in-line. From a great new mobile app to helping fans with transport, there is a lot to be excited about for this year’s event.
A sporting nation
Russia 2018 will be the first major football tournament the country has held. The biggest football tournament prior to the World Cup held in Russia was the 2008 Champions League Final. The match was played in Moscow at the Luzhniki Stadium and featured Manchester United and Chelsea. The Moscow stadium will host the tournament’s first match between Russia and Saudi Arabia on June 14th along with the World Cup Final on July 15th. The showpiece stadium will see an unbelievable 81,000 fans jam-pack the Luzhniki. It will be a great sight behold for both Russia and FIFA.
Four years ago, Russia also hosted the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The most southern Russian 2018 World Cup host city, Sochi’s 47,000-plus Olympic Stadium will play home to six World Cup matches. Compared to the other cities being used for Russia 2018, Sochi could experience much hotter temperatures. Of course, the heat won’t be as high as it was at Brazil 2014, where play was made extremely difficult due to the weather.
In the build-up to Russia 2018, the country also hosted the 2017 Confederations Cup. Featuring teams who had won their regional or confederation tournaments, the event was a chance for Russia to have a practice run before the real thing this year. Four cities played host to the tournament as eight teams competed for the Confederation Cup trophy. Germany prevailed on the final day in St. Petersburg’s Krestovsky Stadium. The win further solidified the country’s claim as the best team in the world ahead of Russia 2018.
Cities and stadiums
Russia 2018 will be played in 11 cities across three time zones. The distances between host cities is remarkable, but due to Russia’s large size, the games will take place in major regional hubs. Many of these cities have had stadiums built in recent years. Meanwhile, the stadium in Yekaterinburg was re-developed. Other areas of the host cities have also been refurbished or built. Metro stations, airports and new transport links were made possible thanks to the football tournament arriving in Russia.
While the stadiums in previous World Cup host countries like South Africa and Brazil were white elephants post-games, the stadiums in Russia will be used by teams in the Russian Premier League.
Kaliningrad will play host to four group games at the tournament. The stadium is the furthest west of the 11 host cities. The Russian region isn’t actually a part of the country’s mainland. Rather it is located in Eastern Europe between Lithuania and Poland. Kaliningrad sits on the Baltic Sea and holds ties to Russia thanks to its past as part of the U.S.S.R. The city sits over 3,000 kilometers away from Russia’s furthest east located World Cup city Yekaterinburg. The brand-new Kaliningrad Stadium will seat 35,000-plus fans. England and Belgium will contest one of the venue’s four group stage matches. It will be the highest profile game held in Kaliningrad and the two sides will meet on June 28 in their final group stage game.
Moving east across mainland Russia, St. Petersburg’s Krestovsky Stadium will be one of the tournament’s main venues. Home to Russian Premier League team Zenit St. Petersburg, the Krestovsky Stadium was opened in 2017. The arena cost $1 billion to build, but some of that was due to construction problems and delays. The stadium has a futuristic, spaceship design, and more than 67,000 fans will be able to witness the seven Russia 2018 matches played at the stadium.
Moscow will have two stadiums featuring games at Russia 2018. The capital city’s Luzhniki Stadium will host the first match of the tournament along with the World Cup Final. The stadium has a capacity of 81,000. Spartak Stadium, also known as Otkrytiye Arena and home to Russia’s Spartak Moscow, was opened in 2014. It will host five matches with four of which being group stage games.
Nihzny Novgorod Stadium will open in time for the 2018 World Cup. The brand-new venue will be home to six games, including one of the quarterfinal matches. Located near Nihzny Novgorod is Kazan, which is home to Russian team Rubin Kazan. The club’s stadium, the Kazan Arena, will host six games during the tournament, including the exciting group stage game between Poland and Colombia.
Samara’s Cosmo Arena is another new venue that will be opened in time for the games. The nearly 45,000-capacity venue will see six matches played on its turf. The Mordovia Arena will be completed just in time for kickoff June 16th. The massive venue will be home to four group stage matches. Located in Mordovia, the venue’s turf is actually being imported from Canada. There is the possibility the pitch won’t be in 100 percent playing condition by the start of the event. The stadium will hold over 44,000 people when the Russia 2018 World Cup begins.
Volgograd will provide a rebuilt football stadium for the tournament. The Volgograd Arena is being built on the grounds of the previous stadium that was demolished to make way for the rebuild. Some of the arena’s original plans were scaled back once building got underway as the original funding was cut. Still, the Volgograd Arena will hold over 45,500 fans on match days. The Rostov Arena in Rostov-on-Don marks the fifth brand-new stadium completed for Russia 2018. The stadium will hold five matches with the final game being a round of 16 clash. The Rostov Arena will welcome a capacity crowd of 45,000 per game. Rostov-on-Don recently opened its new Platov International Airport in preparation for the World Cup. The airport lies 30 kilometers outside of Rostov-on-Don.
The 2014 Winter Olympic host city, Sochi, will be the home of six World Cup matches. The Fisht Olympic Stadium, opened in 2013, is a gorgeous 47,000-plus capacity arena. The stadium was also used at the 2017 Confederations Cup and fans got to experience the venue first hand ahead of the World Cup. Sochi is the southernmost host city at Russia 2018. Fans and players flying from St. Petersburg to Sochi will travel 2,300 kilometers one-way.
The final venue being used at Russia 2018 has received the most interest from the world’s media. The Central Stadium, located in the tournament’s easternmost city of Yekaterinburg, was built below the FIFA mandated number of seats. So, how did the venue’s architects get around the problem? Simple, they tore down one end of the arena and built a stand located on the outside of the Central Stadium. The uniquely modified venue now holds over 35,000 fans. Just four group games will be play in Yekaterinburg, so fans will have limited opportunities to watch games from the creatively re-designed stadium.
Travel at Russia 2018
The host cities at the World Cup are far apart. The distance between venues cannot only cause a logistical nightmare for supporters, teams and the media; but it can also cause headaches for the transport companies in Russia. The tournament’s organizers have devised a way to make travel between cities cost effective and easy for fans; and it could keep them from flying from city to city. Russia 2018 will have a transport programme that provides free train travel to supporters with match tickets or documents stating they have access to matches. Spectators will also need to gain a Fan ID to access the free train travel. Once they have acquired the appropriate documents, fans can experience the long journeys between host cities a little easier. It will also save them a lot of money.
Fans heading to Moscow should note that the capital is legendary for having bad traffic. Moscow traffic jams can last for hours, and fans wanting to attend games in the city should be aware getting to the Luzhniki Stadium or Spartak Stadium could take longer than expected. Interestingly, teams playing in Moscow during the group stages have elected to base their training camps outside of the capital. According to reports, it is quicker to fly from St. Petersburg to other host cities than getting through Moscow traffic during rush hour.
Russia 2018 Fan ID
Football fans wanting to attend matches at Russia 2018 will not only need match tickets, but they will need a Fan ID, too. Every supporter is required to have a Fan ID for security reasons. The Fan ID also allows foreign travelers to enter Russia multiple times and replaces the standard need of gaining a travel visa during the World Cup. The Fan ID replaces the hassle of getting a visitor visa for nearly all travelers during the five-week football tournament.
Fans attending the World Cup will need to purchase their match tickets prior to applying for a Fan ID. Once tickets are purchased, a supporter can register for the Fan ID using information from the tickets they have bought. The Fan ID allows spectators to access free travel for Russia 2018 as fans can use trains running between host cities to make the long treks.
The World Cup offices have already begun distributing the Fan ID cards. In February, each host city opened their very own Fan ID distribution center. If a fan has their Fan ID stolen or it becomes lost, a Fan ID distribution center will provide a new card. Supporters will need to visit a center in one of the 11 host cities to replace a card. However, fans should realize they will not be able to access the free transport without the Fan ID.
Fans should not trust third-party ticket sellers. The tickets being sold for Russia 2018 through a so-called ticket re-seller could be counterfeit. In addition, fans who are told by ticket sellers that they do not need a Fan ID with the tickets they are selling should immediately be cautious about buying any item.
Official Russia 2018 mobile app
The official Russia 2018 World Cup app has been launched to help supporters follow their teams at the tournament. The free app will give fans attending the event or watching from home with up-to-date information. The great thing about the app is it has loads of great information for fans attending the World Cup’s host cities. The app will have a number of great venues and events fans can attend while in Russia. Some are World Cup related while others allow fans to sample Russian culture. Thanks to the continued evolution of modern technology, there is a chance for fans to stay up-to-date on everything happening at the football tournament or around it.
The World Cup event organizers will provide spectators traveling to Russia with Fan Fests during the five-week spectacle. All 11 host cities will have its own Fan Fest. Each venue will be centrally located and give fans the chance to watch the game and interact with other supporters. Russia 2018 organizers are preparing each Fan Fest site to be easily accessible for fans venturing to the World Cup. As always, the Fan Fests provide a great opportunity to spectators to enjoy the matches without going to the games themselves.
What should fans know before going to Russia 2018?
While a lot of great elements and aspects have been put into place ahead of the World Cup – such as the mobile app, Fan Fests and more – there are some things travelers should be aware of before setting off for Russia.
There is red tape that fans must go through once inside the country. For example, fans will need to retain a migration card upon arrival in Russia. This card must be handed in upon departure after their trip. According to travel experts, fans need to sign in every time they arrive at a new host city. Although hotels typically do this for foreign visitors, it is important that fans make sure it has been completed.
Fans should note that tap water is not to be consumed while visiting Russia. However, supporters can purchase bottled water at stores. Supporters expecting to find beer or other alcohol at World Cup stadiums will be out of luck. Alcohol will be prohibited in all venues. There will also be some restrictions on buying and consuming alcohol on match days.
Reports have indicated that a variety of hotels have already hiked their prices ahead of the World Cup in June. In some cities the hikes have been described as exploitative. The best way for fans to keep from experiencing a price hike or being refused a room they book upon arrival to Russia is to use FIFA’s recommended list of hotels and accommodation.
Russia 2018 is set to be the biggest World Cup yet. The tournament will provide football fans with the biggest names in international football. Thousands of supporters will head to Russia and the greatest sporting event in the world will once again amaze milions around the globe.