Russia's President Vladimir Putin on Sunday vowed "an unforgettable football feast" when his country hosts the 2018 World Cup. After spending more than the $50 billion on this year's Sochi Winter Olympics, Putin faces another multi-billion dollar bill for the project.
The 2018 World Cup is Russia's most ambitious project since the fall of the Soviet Union.But Putin is confident. "We will do all we can to organise the event on the highest level," he vowed at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium. "We successfully hosted the Winter Olympics...in Sochi and now know exactly what a challenge it is to organise an event of such calibre," he added on Friday.
The Kremlin strongman said Russia wanted to learn from the experience of Brazil which won plaudits for the colourful tournament despite dire warnings of street protests, rushed construction and crime. "We will do our best to present the world an unforgettable football feast and genuine Russian hospitality in 2018," Putin told Cuba's Prensa Latina and Russia's state ITAR-TASS news agencies.
For February's Winter Olympics Moscow pumped $50 billion into transforming the Black Sea resort of Sochi into a glittering sports venue, making the games the most expensive in history and vastly outstripping initial estimates.
The World Cup presents an even bigger challenge with a radical overhaul needed of sports, tourist and transport infrastructure in a string of under-developed regions across the vast country. Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko initially estimated the total cost of the 2018 World Cup at 680 billion roubles ($20 billion/14.7 billion euros), saying half will come from private investment and half from eight regional budgets.