(ATR) Vladimir Putin has urged Russia’s World Cup cities to seize on the sporting opportunity to create a strong footballing legacy.
Putin at his annual press conference (Kremlin)
One week before the World Cup kicks off in Moscow, Putin addressed some tournament organizational issues in his annual Q&A with the Russian public.
Russia is staging the June 14 to July 15 tournament at 12 stadiums in 11 cities, including two in the capital.
Saying the World Cup legacy was in the hands of the authorities of the regions hosting the competition, Putin said it was “inadmissible to turn these sports facilities into some sort of marketplaces, which we saw emerge at sports facilities in Moscow in the 1990s”.
World Cup queries were among some two million questions submitted to Putin for his annual TV call-in show; his comments were reported by state-run news agency TASS and other international news outlets.
Amid regional calls for government grants to fund the ongoing maintenance of the stadiums post-World Cup, said to be in the $3.2m to $6.4m range – Putin said “all the facilities need to be able to cover their costs”.
According to the Associated Press
, he proposed turning them into multipurpose entertainment destinations, with restaurants, cafes and shopping malls to increase revenues.
Putin pointed to the success of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic venues and infrastructure legacy, despite concerns voiced by the Olympic Movement in recent years that the main Games hub has not been fully exploited, with some venues barely used.
"Unlike many countries, we have managed to solve this task. Both Sochi clusters are actively used, which is a clear success," he said. The Fisht Olympic Stadium has been expanded to host FIFA World Cup matches.
The Russian president urged his country’s football federation to capitalize on the FIFA showpiece to develop football in the country.
"We must keep holding there [the stadiums] interesting matches, which would lead to the necessity of forming new, strong teams," Putin said, reported by TASS
"On top of everything, we need to see a new generation of footballers and athletes grown on our home-soil training infrastructure."
Putin said he hopes the Russian football team will put in a good performance at the World Cup, although they are expected to struggle.
In FIFA’s world rankings released Thursday, Russia are the lowest ranked side of all 32 teams at the tournament, in 70th place
Reigning World Cup champions Germany top the rankings, with Brazil in second spot and Belgium third.
Written by Aaron Bauer
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