Russia has opened its second new stadium for the 2018 World Cup: Spartak Moscow's new home, the Otkrytie Arena. President Vladimir Putin said the 42,000-seater was "worthy of Russia's most beloved team."
After months of skating and hockey lessons prior to his appearance on the ice at the Sochi Winter Olympics, President Vladimir Putin can now turn his attention to football - perhaps with a slight distraction in the form of Russia's inaugural modern-era Formula One race, to take place at the Sochi Autodrom on October 12.
"This arena is worthy of Russia's most beloved team," Putin said at the brand new Otkrytie Arena, also known as Spartak Stadium, in Moscow. "Construction of such modern venues will give an impulse to the development of the entire country."
Work on the stadium began in 2010, funded in large part by Spartak Moscow's private owners. The Otkrytie Arena, which seats 42,000, cost around 300 million euros ($400 million) and will also host FIFA Confederations Cup matches in 2017. Spartak Moscow is among Russia's most successful clubs, both during and after the Soviet era.
First Kazan, now Moscow, soon Sochi
Two new Russian grounds have now opened in preparation for the 2018 World Cup, with Kazan's 45,000-seater the first to be completed. Putin voiced hope on Wednesday that the Gazprom Stadium in his powerbase of St Petersburg - now slated for completion by May 2016 - would stay on schedule.
"Hopefully, they will manage to keep up the pace of their work" until completion, Putin said of those working on the 70,000 capacity stadium. The building work was initially scheduled for completion in 2008.
In Sochi, modifications are being made to the Fisht Olympic Stadium to increase its capacity to 45,000 seats. Construction of the other 2018 World Cup venues will soon start from scratch.
The main World Cup events, however, will be held at the revamped Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow - a common home for Spartak in recent years. Originally constructed in the 1950s, and later the chief venue for the 1980 Olympics, the revamped ground will seat roughly 81,000 people for the opening game and for the 2018 World Cup final.
msh/glb (AFP, Reuters, SID)