Alexey Sorokin is leading Russia’s World Cup preparations (WFI)

(WFI) Russia’s World Cup CEO Alexey Sorokin tells World Football INSIDER that meetings with Euro 2012 organisers in Warsaw and Kharkiv will help inform preparations for the 2018 FIFA tournament.

Sorokin headed a Russia 2018 delegation that spent four days in the Polish capital as part of the UEFA Observer Programme, which aims to provide a transfer of knowledge to organisers of major international sporting events.

“It was very useful. It [the programme] gives you an idea of the magnitude of the event,” Sorokin told INSIDER, adding that it covered all aspects of Euro 2012 preparations.

“It’s hard to overstate the importance of a transport plan. Infrastructure has to be [delivered] on time otherwise it may pose some organisational difficulties,” he added.

Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland and Ukraine completed their stadia projects in the nick of time, but funding and time ran out on some transport projects to the disappointment of UEFA chiefs. However, the most critical transport links and airports were delivered.

Russia 2018 leaders have a big job of their own to upgrade airports, roads and high-speed rail links between the host cities – an overhaul of the country’s transport infrastructure set to cost billions of dollars.

Other 2018 LOC officials joined delegates from Russian candidate cities and experts from FIFA in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv last week. They gained insights into the ways its airport has been prepared to cope with increased passenger numbers. For the duration of Euro 2012, a temporary terminal at Kharkiv International Airport is permitting up to an extra 200 departures and landings each day, far exceeding figures from previous years.

This was put to the test on June 13, when the airport processed 25,000 passengers in the space of 24 hours for the match between Germany and the Netherlands, held at Metalist’s Kharkiv Stadium.

Sorokin’s comments came on the final leg of FIFA’s inspection tour of the 13 candidate cities for the 2018 World Cup.

A total of 15 stadiums are proposed across these cities, which are divided into four geographical clusters. Oly 11 cities and 12 venues will be selected to stage the FIFA showpiece. Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, venue for the final, and Saint Petersburg’s stunning 69,000-seat retractable-roof arena are two that will definitely make the shortlist.

On Monday, LOC officials and FIFA experts were presented with Kazan’s plans for the tournament.

Kazan’s preparations are well advanced because of its staging of the 2013 Universiade. The 45,000-seat stadium and new airport are due for completion early next year, Sorokin confirmed.

“There’s generally a lot of construction and modernisation in this city to brush it up for the Universiade,” he told INSIDER.

“There’s not shortage of venue-specific training sites and plans from the city for increases in hotel rooms.”

Today, FIFA officials visit Nizhny Novgorod and Saransk. The inspection tour continues to Samara and Volgograd ending on Friday.

“It is instrumental in the [host city] selection process. There’s no other way to cut off some cities,” Sorokin said.

“We are also getting familiar with our future partners and getting a feel for the cities and the challenges that are possible in each of them.”

He added: “We are listening to the plans for development that the regions have and meeting the authorities. It is very complex.”

FIFA will announce the final list of host cities in September.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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