Mutko says Russia has learnt from the Brazil 2014 experience (INSIDER)

(WFI) Vitaly Mutko, head of the Russia 2018 organising committee, says the Russia conflict with Ukraine will not be an issue for the FIFA World Cup.

Preparations for the World Cup are taking place against the backdrop of his nation’s escalating war with Ukraine. The civil war was thrust back into the media spotlight last week after a Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down flying over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. Pro-Russian separatists are blamed.

Speaking to reporters before the MH17 tragedy, the FIFA ExCo member was keen to dismiss suggestions Russia’s conflict with Ukraine would have a major impact on tournament plans.

“I don’t see any major issues here [Ukraine]. It is a different subject and will not influence the preparation of the World Cup” he said.

Nonetheless, security will be heavily scrutinised just as it was before Russia hosted the Sochi Winter Olympics earlier this year. Bombings in Volvograd before the Games heightened the threat level to the Black Sea resort, but Mutko reiterated that his team had learned from the Olympic experience.

“Terrorist threats and potential attacks, this is not an exclusive programme – in preparing for Sochi, we’ve done a lot in cooperation with other countries and we managed to solve this challenge. The same will be done with the World Cup,” he said.

“We’re finishing deliberation of the security plan based on the Sochi Games. We were already doing a lot as far as that is concerned in designing stadiums and building them. Work is being done as we speak.

“We have a unique plan everywhere and the European part of Russia will be part of this security concept.”

Mutko will be keen to keep the focus on the football, and pledged that “104 billion roubles” would be spent on Russia’s sporting infrastructure.

But it’s the urban infrastructure that is the particular challenge over the next four years.

“We will need to construct 64 modern hotels. 12 stadiums, base camps, training grounds – the whole programme is a challenge and it is a big challenge mobilising monies. It is big work but one of the biggest challenges is accommodation,” he said.

“Moscow, St Petersburg, Sochi and Kazan have necessary hotels but some cities will we need to do a lot more with investors to accommodate everybody. Five stadiums are in construction and in September we will open another stadium – we need to build seven.”

Work started on the Samara stadium last week. October has been set as the deadline for all the projects to get underway. “34 weeks are planned which is a very tight deadline,” he added. “There are no doubts we will be up to the task.”

Dutch FA Rejects Calls for Russia 2018 Boycott

Amid mounting anger in
the Netherlands about Russia’s role in the Malaysian Airlines disaster
which claimed the lives of 193 Dutch nationals, the Dutch FA says it’s
too early to say whether it will boycott the Russia 2018 World Cup.

Dutch
prime minister Mark Rutte told the BBC on Friday that the person who
fired the missile that shot down the MH17 plane killing all 298
passengers on board “can be

assured… they won’t escape justice”.

Several
leading politicians in Germany this week called for Russia to be
stripped of World Cup hosting rights, saying this would have a bigger
impact than a widening of economic sanctions by the EU.

But the Dutch FA (KNVB) is not considering a boycott at the moment.

“We
are aware that a future World Cup in Russia stirs great emotion among
all football fans and relatives in the Netherlands,” the KNVB said in a
statement, according to the Daily Telegraph.

“The association believes
it is more appropriate to conduct a discussion over a future World Cup
in Russia at a later date, once the investigation into the disaster has
been completed.”

The English and German football associations have
also said they won’t consider withdrawing participation in the Russian tournament. Germany’s
FIFA ExCo member Theo Zwanziger said: “A boycott in sport only rarely yields
results and therefore I don’t think much of such suggestions.”

Mutko Wants Brazil 2014 Atmosphere

The Russian sports minister said he is keen to replicate the Brazil 2014 carnival atmosphere at the World Cup in four years’ time.

“The atmosphere has been amazing,” he said. “It will be very difficult to replicate the atmosphere. The main protagonists are the teams and everybody is very, very happy which means the organization has been done to a high level.”

In praise of Brazil, he added: “Transportation, the logistics, the training camps; all this was exceptional. We will try and consider these factors. There was a large group of [Russia 2018] observers and they’ve been watching the whole thing. We brought a group of monitoring bodies so they could get acquainted with everything.

“We will draw our conclusions, gather everybody and we will conduct a discussion and try to optimise our programmes, given the Brazilian experience.”

Mutko attended the Germany’s 1-0 victory over Argentina in the World Cup final and sat alongside Russia president Vladimir Putin at the Maracana. Putin took part in a World Cup handover ceremony with Brazil counterpart Dilma Rousseff.

Mutko said he hoped that Russia would not attract as much criticism as Brazil faced in the build-up to this year’s event, saying 2018 organisers would do all they could to reduce the amount of negative stories.

“I think some criticism is healthy but we need to be objective in how we talk about the events,” he said. “We will try to show everything we do to the world, step by step. The preparation of a World Cup should be extremely transparent.

Russia is, of course, no stranger to criticism in the build-up to a large sporting event having faced much vitriol before the Sochi Winter Olympics earlier this year because of controversial legislation relating to homosexuals and the conflict with Ukraine.

By Christian Radnedge

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