Russian President Vladimir Putin assured soccer fans around the world that his country will be prepared to host the FIFA World Cup in 2018.
Yahoo! Sports reports that last Saturday, Putin shared the stage with departing FIFA President Sepp Blatter in St. Petersburg during a preliminary draw for the upcoming World Cup. Putin told audience members that Russia is making preparations for hosting the World Cup a top priority.
“I’d like to emphasize again that all the plans to prepare for the World Cup will be fulfilled,” Putin said. “Hosting it is one of our key tasks.”
Some critics are concerned that Russia will be unprepared to host the international tournament. Russia plans on constructing 12 stadiums in various cities for the World Cup, including one in St. Petersburg known as the Zenit Arena. The Zenit Arena is particularly troubling to observers, considering its construction has been repeatedly delayed since construction began nearly a decade ago. The project looked so bad at one point that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev publicly commented that it looked “disgraceful.”
However, the 68,000-seat, 38 billion ruble (or $650 million) stadium is 75% complete, according to project chief Vitaly Lazutkin. Lazutkin claims that the rest of the project involves installing seats and working on the stadium’s retractable roof and other sophisticated systems.
Regardless of the stadium’s progress, many soccer fans are also concerned about the state of FIFA itself. Blatter is set to leave office after his organization was charged with several counts of fraud, money laundering, and racketeering by the United States Department of Justice earlier this year. Fourteen FIFA officials were indicted. Many of the charges were related to FIFA’s decision to host the World Cup in Russia in 2018 as well as in Qatar in 2022.
Still, FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke is nonplussed by the charges or by Russia’s progress. He deemed the situation “relaxing.”
“Russia is really way on track and I have no concern,” Valcke said. “The next FIFA Secretary General should be happy with the work that I give him because he will have a very organized World Cup.”
Like Blatter, Valcke is set to step down from his position soon.
Soccer is one of the world’s most beloved sports. FIFA estimates that more than 240 million people around the world play soccer regularly.