Russian Sports Minister "Determined" to Secure 2018 World Cup

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Bid chairman Vitaly Mutko (Getty)
(WFI) Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko underlined his country's fierce determination to secure the 2018/2022 World Cup, as FIFA inspectors arrived in Saint Petersburg for their four-day evaluation of the bid.

“The essence of this visit is to go to four cities of our bid, which are Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Kazan and Sochi, in order to see on site what we have written in our bid book and to check again the facts and numbers we have given," bid chairman Mutko said in his welcome address.

"This will allow us to demonstrate Russia’s and the cities’ capabilities," added Mutko, who hails from Saint Petersburg.

"We are determined and willing to host the FIFA World Cup and able to fulfil the requirements. We are looking forward to a good and fruitful visit.”

The FIFA team, led by Chilean FA president Harold Mayne-Nicholls, was welcomed at Saint Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport by Mutko, Sergei Fursenko, president of the Russian Football Union (RFU), and bid CEO Alexey Sorokin.

Mayne-Nicholls is accompanied by South Africa World Cup CEO Danny Jordaan, who has a technical advisor role, FIFA’s head of event management Jürgen Müller, David Fowler of FIFA Marketing, FIFA press officer Wolfgang Eichler and FIFA competitions division official Julio Avellar.

Today, FIFA delegates were briefed about Saint Petersburg's World Cup plans in a presentation at Smolny Palace.

They also visited the construction site of Saint Petersburg's planned 68,000-seater stadium, walked on the iconic Palace Square, selected as a fan fest site, and toured Mariinsky
Russia 2018 chief architect, Dmitry Bush (centre), shows the model of Saint Petersburg's World Cup stadium to FIFA's Jürgen Müller (right), with Danny Jordaan (left) looking on (Russia 2018)
Theatre, which is proposed as the venue for FIFA's preliminary draw. The day ended with a dinner hosted by the government of Saint Petersburg at Yusupov palace.

On Tuesday, inspectors head to Moscow where they will tour Luzhniki Stadium, proposed venue for the opening and final match of a Russia World Cup.

The bid committee's big presentation will take place at a Russian government building before Moscow authorities deliver their host city pitch. A meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is expected to take place tomorrow.

The FIFA team will then tour of the proposed venues for the International Broadcasting Centre and FIFA headquarters. Visits to Manezh Exhibition Hall (Final Draw venue), Gostiny Dvor Congress Centre (FIFA Congress venue), the Red Square (Fan Fest location) and a dinner at the Kremlin are also on the agenda.

Wednesday is a busy day of travel, with Mayne-Nicholls and his colleagues heading to the cities of Kazan and Sochi, the Black Sea resort hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics.

They return to Moscow for a wrap-up press conference on Thursday, having seen four of the 13 proposed host cities, including four of the 16 stadiums listed in the bid book.

On arriving in Saint Petersburg today, Mayne-Nicholls described the four-day visit as a "learning process".

"We will be pleased and honoured to visit the four cities to be inspected. We will be asking for all the information necessary for an objective and realistic report which will be submitted to the members of the FIFA Executive Committee," he said.

Russia is the fifth stop on FIFA's two-month tour of the nine bids vying to stage either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup. Bids from Japan, South Korea, Australia and Holland-Belgium have already been evaluated on site.

England, Spain and Portugal, USA and Qatar are set to be inspected in the coming month.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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