Setbacks endure as Russia preps for WCup
Corruption scandals, extended deadlines and even a wobbly pitch are just a few of the setbacks Russia has faced ahead of the 2018 World Cup, though authorities vow everything will be ready on time. Putting the final touches on the infrastructure in four host cities-Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Kazan and Sochihas become all the more pressing because they will also host the Confederations Cup next year, a dress rehearsal for the 2018 tournament. President Vladimir Putin this month assured that all stadiums would be built within deadlines and with good quality-a pledge labour disputes and technical problems in recent months could jeopardize.
At Saint Petersburg’s futuristic 68,000-seater stadium, the retractable pitch had been rendered unsuitable for play due to technical issues that made it unstable-just the latest problem to plague the venue, under construction for nearly a decade. The wobbly pitch, however, is not expected to cause any more delays in the stadium’s construction, which is set to be completed by the end of the year despite delays and the main contractor quitting this summer. “The issue is that the field rolls into the stadium on an unstable base. It needs to be strengthened,” RIA Novosti quoted Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko as saying this month. Earlier this month, the former deputy governor of Saint Petersburg, Marat Oganesyan, was arrested over a fraud scheme with a firm that was supposed to provide the stadium with a video scoreboard.
The government also announced last month that the new stadiums being built in Nizhny Novgorod and Volgograd-which were set to be completed by December 2017 - would not be done until the first quarter of 2018. Despite many hiccups, Russian officials have remained upbeat about the prospect of hosting a successful World Cup. “The construction process is difficult and complicated,” Dmitry Svishchev, a member of the parliament’s sports and physical culture committee said. “But there have never been any construction projects completed easily and without any setbacks.”
He added that he expected the stadiums and infrastructure to “be beautiful.” The airports of some host cities are also undergoing makeovers. Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport announced last month that it had invested $865 million into building a new terminal and was expanding its operations ahead of the World Cup. But Kaliningrad’s Khrabrovo airport, which is being rebuilt ahead of the tournament, is in “terrible condition,” Vedomosti business daily wrote in September. — AFP