(WFI) Russia finally has all its stadiums ready for the World Cup 45 days before the start of the tournament.
The final venue to open its doors and receive permission to host matches is in the city of Samara, in the southeastern part of the country with a population of over 1 million.
The new Samara Arena is a 45,000-seat structure that has struggled with delays and cost overruns after its original budget was set – like every other new Russian stadium – at $225 million. Although the final cost has not been made public, some experts set the final budget of the Samara venue at $320 million.
The delays in its construction stem from the disputes over costs between government officials and stadium contractors. At the center of their differences was the arena’s complex roof design — meant to evoke space to reflect Samara’s achievements in the space industry.
The contract to build that space-themed arena that was meant to look like a flying saucer was awarded to an established regional company four years ago.
The transparent dome of the venue was supposed to include an intricate set of beams that would light up the city skyline at night. However that translucent dome was finally replaced with a metal one and other corners were cut.
The regional authorities also contributed to the construction delays by adding shopping stores that made the arena 40 percent larger than originally expected.
Now Samara Arena is 156,000 square meters in size, making it the largest of the 12 World Cup stadiums in Russia.
During this summer’s FIFA World Cup, Samara will host a total of six matches: four group stage games, a match in the Last 16 stage and one of the quarterfinals.
The group stage matches to be played in Samara are: Costa Rica-Serbia on June 17, Denmark-Australia on June 21, Uruguay-Russia on June 25 and Senegal-Colombia on June 28.
The Samara Arena held its first test game on Saturday as local second-tier club Krylya Sovetov Samara came from behind to beat Fakel Voronezh 2-1 in front of around 14,000 fans.
Only parts of the stands were open for Saturday’s game, meant as an initial check of transport and other infrastructure.
The game kicked off with the speech by Dmitry Azarov, the acting governor of the Samara region. Honored veterans of Samara football, namely Andrei Karyaka, Ravil Aryapov, and Valerjan Panfilov, hit the ball as the symbolic start of the match.
After the 2018 World Cup tournament ends, the venue will be used as a home stadium for the city’s Krylya Sovetov Football Club.
Samara is a major transport hub thanks to its international airport, major railway station and busy river port. During the World War II, Samara, formerly known as Kuibyshev, was intended to become the second capital of the Soviet Union as all government departments and diplomatic corps were evacuated there from Moscow.
Russia will host its first FIFA World Cup from June 14 to July 15. Aside from Samara, the matches will take place in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Saransk, Rostov-on-Don, Yekaterinburg, and Sochi.
By INSIDER Javier Monne
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