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Off to Russia

December 2, 2010

The decision to hand Russia the hosting duties for the 2018 World Cup has been met with jubilation all over the country. It will be the first time a country in eastern Europe has hosted the soccer tournament.

Moscow fans celebrate
Fans in Moscow cheer as they hear the outcome of the voteImage: AP

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev wrote "Hurray!" on his blog, as the news that Russia had been selected to host the 2018 World Cup was announced.

"Hurray! Victory!" the president wrote on Twitter, moments after FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced the result of the executive committee's vote in Zurich.

"Now we have to really prepare the way we stage the World Cup. And, of course, put up a deserving performance," Medvedev wrote.

So far the Russian football team has not made it past the first round of any World Cup campaign.

'Russia loves football'

The decision to take football's biggest tournament - and the world's most watched event - to Russia was a personal victory for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whose idea it was to run for the hosting duties in the first place.

The Russian bid team celebrate
The Russian bid team celebrate FIFA's decision in ZurichImage: dapd

The prime minister had originally boycotted the vote in Zurich, saying that after British media allegations of corruption by FIFA officials, he wanted to leave the world soccer body alone to make the decision.

Shortly after the announcement, Putin jumped on a plane to Zurich to thank the FIFA executive for "trusting" Russia.

"In Russia we love football, we know about football, and we have everything to ensure that we hold the 2018 World Cup in a very worthy way," Putin told reporters.

The prime minister recognized that better stadiums, airports, hotels and roads would be needed but said selecting Russia would mean "the development of world soccer."

Putin has been seen as the orchestrator of bringing both the 2014 Winter Olympics and a Formula One grand prix home to his country.

'A huge celebration'

Russia has a massive building project to prepare for the World Cup, including proposals for 13 brand new stadiums. The construction project is budgeted at 2.9 billion euros ($3.82 billion) - the largest figure among the four European bidders.

Vladimir Putin
Prime Minister Putin is said to be the powerhouse behind Russia's bidImage: picture alliance / dpa

Yet despite economic fears, the majority of opinion in Russia has been one of quiet confidence about hosting the tournament.

"It's only a game, but you feel you are at the center of the world," said Russian sports broadcaster Wassilij Utkin. "There are not many events in the world as big as this," he added.

Even Russian opposition politicians, such as Ilya Yashin, were clearly ecstatic by the news. "As a fan, I'm feeling some fantastic emotions," said the young politician. "The best teams in the whole world will be coming to Russia and it means a huge celebration for our country."

New territory for FIFA

Russia won the rights to host the 2018 World Cup after a secret ballot of 22 FIFA officials, beating European competition from England and joint Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Netherlands bids. The host for the 2022 World Cup was also decided in Zurich on Thursday, with the vote going to the small Arab nation of Qatar.

FIFA President Blatter said he was delighted football was going "to new lands."

"Never has the World Cup been in Russia and eastern Europe, and the Middle East and Arabic world have been waiting for a long time, so I'm a happy president when we talk about the development of football," said Blatter.

Author: Catherine Bolsover (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Nancy Isenson