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FIFA inspectors happy with Russia 2018 World Cup progress

FIFA has expressed its happiness at the progress being made in Russia as the company prepares to host the next football World Cup in 2018.

It comes after the sport's global governing body's inspection committee carried out the first official visits to the stadiums that will play a key part in the tournament in four years' time.

The delegation, which was led by Chris Unger, visited stadiums in St Petersburg, Kazan, Sochi, and two arenas in Moscow, including the Luzhniki Stadium, which will host the World Cup final.

Despite construction work currently being carried out at the Luzhniki Stadium meaning the delegates could only view the arena from the outside, they expressed their happiness at what they saw there, and at the other four venues.

Round-the-clock work is being undertaken in each of the host cities, particularly in the area surrounding the Luzhniki Stadium, which will act as the tournament hub and also be the location of FIFA's main office.

It is hoped that the strict construction programme will not only help to avoid some of the problems that beset the run-up to the Brazil World Cup, when some stadiums were in danger of not even being ready for the group stages, but also ensure that everything is in place for Russia's staging of the Confederations Cup in 2017, which will act as the curtain-raiser for the World Cup the following year.

Alexey Sorokin, CEO of Russia 2018, said a key topic of the nine-day inspection has been about how to maximise the space around the stadiums, with much time spent looking at plans for stadiums that have yet to be constructed.

He explained: "Everything is going according to plan and on the whole, the FIFA delegation have been pleasantly surprised with what they have seen."

In particular, the committee acknowledged its enthusiasm for the Kazan Arena, which played host to the World Student Games in 2013.

Mr Unger added: "My first impression: this is an excellent venue. As we heard today, everything is going according to plan, which is great news for everyone."

A few recommendations have been made by the committee, including adapting the Fischt Arena in Sochi, which was used for the Winter Olympic Games in February.

Another venue highlighted was the new stadium in St Petersburg, though Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has confirmed that the 68,000-seater facility will be completed by the summer of 2016 at the latest, leaving plenty of time to prepare for the Confederations Cup, as well as the World Cup itself.

Mr Unger elaborated: "It is difficult to compare the different stadiums, but then again, this is not what we are looking to do. We are looking at the progress that is taking place and we hope to see continued improvement when we make our next visit here in six to nine months."

The next visit will be the second of seven trips made to Russia by the FIFA inspection committee in the build-up to the 2018 World Cup, with all 11 host cities being visited.

As well as Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan and Sochi, the other host cities include Kaliningrad, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov on Don, Samara, Saransk, Volgograd and Yekaterinburg.

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