Taking part in the meeting were heads of federal ministries, leaders of the Russian Football Union, business community representatives and heads of the Russian regions that will host World Cup matches.
Matches will be held at 12 stadiums in 11 Russian cities: Moscow (Luzhniki and Otkrytiye Arena stadiums), St Petersburg, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Yekaterinburg, Samara, Sochi and Rostov-on-Don.
Prior to the meeting, the President reviewed the reconstruction of the Luzhniki Grand Sports Arena, the championship’s main stadium which will host the opening match, one semi-final and the World Cup final.
Later Vladimir Putin held a meeting with FIFA President Joseph Blatter.
Excerpts from transcript of the meeting of the Russia-2018 Organising Committee’s Supervisory Board on preparations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Blatter, colleagues,
I would like to welcome all the participants in this regular working meeting of the Supervisory Board, which is coordinating preparations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. In terms of the need to carry out preparations and the scope of these preparations this event is comparable to the Olympic Games, and the audience will probably equal the number of visitors at the Winter Olympics.
As you may know, a FIFA inspection group has been working in Russia throughout the past week. This was their first visit to this country and the schedule was very busy. Our colleagues assessed the capability of the existing sports arenas, examined the design and construction of new stadiums, discussed a broad range of issues with representatives of the host cities and made their comments and suggestions.
Together with Mr Blatter, we have just been to Luzhniki Stadium. As you know, it is to become the World Cup’s main arena. The large-scale reconstruction of this stadium is proceeding according to plan.
It is important to maintain the same high pace of work at the other facilities that are to host World Cup matches, ensure we have the necessary infrastructure and provide conditions for the national teams’ training.
I would like to remind you that the World Cup programme includes 298 capital construction sites, 137 of which are purely sports facilities: 12 stadiums, 113 training facilities and 12 temporary structures.
We have allocated significant funding for this programme to be implemented in 2013–2018: over 664 billion rubles [$15.6 billion], with only half coming from the federal budget to develop the transportation, energy and information infrastructure and to modernise healthcare facilities. To be specific, of the total 664.1 billion rubles, 336.2 billion will come from the federal budget, 101.6 billion – from regional budgets and 226.3 billion from non-budgetary sources.
I am certain that Russia will ensure that all the work will be done on time and with high quality.
We already have experience in conducting large-scale sports competitions: the Sochi Olympics that I already mentioned, the Kazan University Games and a whole range of world and continental championships. All the best ideas, experience and practices need to be used during our preparations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. This applies to logistics, involvement of volunteers, ticket programmes and receiving athletes and guests.
It is also very important to monitor all the stages of our preparatory work. To make such regular monitoring possible we suggest setting up a special information portal similar to the one that was such a success at the Sochi Olympics.
In addition, in April we launched the coordinating council of the World Cup preparations programme. A list of primary targets was developed recently. Today I would like us to consider all this in detail.
This also includes working out a set of measures pertaining to security. Here we need to see cooperation and coordination between all the services and agencies and we must establish personal responsibility.
I would like to stress that security has to be efficient but unobtrusive, not excessive, and it should not create problems for the athletes and fans alike.
I would like to remind you that public order and security during the championship is one of the 11 guarantees provided by Russia as the World Cup host. The practical implementation of these guarantees envisages a broad range of measures and solutions, also legislative ones, including customs and tax regulation and ensuring free transportation for the public between the hosting cities. I see this is not an easy job in terms of both funding and organising. I would like to hear a detailed progress report today on this and other areas of work.
At the end of our conversation, we will make the necessary decisions on specific matters, and the opinion of our colleagues from FIFA will be of great value for us here.
I would therefore like to start today’s meeting by asking President Blatter to share his views.
Please, go ahead.
President of Fifa Joseph Blatter: Thank you, President Vladimir Putin.
I am honoured, ladies and gentlemen, to be invited today to the meeting of the supervisory board of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia’s local organising committee, LOC.
I am honoured specifically also because of the presence of your head of state, the President of the Russian Federation, Mr Putin, because he was the architect on the paper to bring the World Cup to Russia. This is very important to underline, because there was a very big competition to have this 2018 World Cup back in Europe. They want to have everything. Generally, when in the compound of Europe, they are speaking about the big European countries, not politically, but those that have a stand in football. And so, we had the candidature of England, we had the candidature of Spain and Portugal, we had the candidature of Belgium and Holland, and then finally, it was Russia the winner.
You could say it’s normal. It was not normal, because if you know the way the Europeans – and here, I speak with the European Union – they try to get all the assets, and when it comes to football, they wanted to have this World Cup. And I’ll tell you, one of the losers of this World Cup, they are still unhappy and they are still saying that it is a mistake of FIFA and a mistake of this Blatter that we didn’t get the World Cup. And it was the country that has invented not only the game, but fair play – they have invented fair play. And you know what that means? Fair play means that you learn to win – that’s easy – but you also learn to lose, and this is not so easy.
But I’m very happy to be here because it is time to say thanks to you for the organisation committee here. It’s now a big task. It is a big task, but it goes on the rotation of the World Cup. The last big event – okay, you have had a lot of events here in Russia – the last, biggest, event you have had were the Olympic Games in 1980. And then the Olympic Games, you know, you have been a little bit bothered because there was a boycott. And just to close these parentheses, they speak again about the boycott of the World Cup. But the World Cup is not the Olympic Games. The World Cup is football, and football cannot be boycotted. Football cannot be boycotted in any country, and it will not in Russia – definitely not. And FIFA stands strong behind this organisation in Russia. That’s one thing.
The other thing I would like to tell you is that – by the way, welcome! Welcome to all the members! It gives me the impression that I attend the council of the government, a governmental council here, with all the ministers, the mayors, and all the guests. But we also have the President of the Union of Football of Russia, he’s also here so I’m very happy that we have footballers, and I am very happy that I am accompanied by the Secretary General of FIFA, Jerome Valcke, because he is the man that has to take over – I wouldn’t say the day-to-day work, because we are here among professionals, so we don’t work day-to-day on these big events – but he will be, as he has been in Brazil, where received a lot of criticism but also a lot of compliments at the end, because it was a great World Cup, he is in charge here. And he’s in charge here with your Sports Minister. And this Sports Minister has already done a lot, and he will do a lot. He is not only the Sports Minister, he is also my colleague in the executive committee of FIFA. And the executive committee of FIFA is the government of FIFA.
But you will say, what is FIFA? Well, we are not so big, from the geographical point of view, as Russia. But we have 300 million active participants in football. We have 209 national associations that are members of FIFA. We have 1.2 billion people that are directly or indirectly involved in the game. It is one sixth of the world population. This is football. This is the – let’s say – the institution called football.
And here we are, at the highest level. What is the highest level of football? It is the World Cup. And the World Cup is the biggest show in the world. I’m sorry, Mr President, I have to give a small amendment. I wouldn’t dare to correct you, but I have to give an amendment. When you say it is like the Olympic Games, no, gentlemen, ladies, it is not the Olympic Games. The Olympic Games is – or will be now – 27 sports in 16 days, watched by about eight or nine billion spectators on television. In Brazil, we played 31 days, 64 games, but we have had more than 50 billion – if we combine the number of tele-spectators. The audience of the World Cup is far – four times, at least – higher than the audience of the Olympic Games. And why? I can tell you. Because I am also an Olympian, a member of the International Olympic Committee. Because they have to ensure the presence on the television of all the 27 sports. We have only one sport, and this is a sport for the people and with the people.
Now, how can we be successful? It is a question of trust and confidence. And trust and confidence is where everything starts. We trust you and you give us the confidence for the organisation. It is not the Russian World Cup. It is the FIFA World Cup in Russia. It is a combined organisation. It is a joint venture. Together, we make a joint venture, and this joint venture is not only for the people of Russia. This joint venture is for the world. Naturally, it is first of all for Russia, but it’s for the world, because this game is a world game. There is not any region in the world where football is not played. Everywhere, football is played. If you cannot play outside, you’ll play indoors. I was in Iceland. Do they play football in winter in Iceland on ice? No. They have halls, and they play there. But football is played everywhere.
So this is this joint venture that I want just to mention, that we are together in the same boat and we want to deliver – for you, naturally, for Russia – but we want to deliver for the world this show. Because it’s a show. They say, “Football is no show.” Football is a show. Football is emotion. And this perturbed world needs emotion. Football is connecting people, bringing people together, and not dividing people. So when some politicians say, “We have to boycott the World Cup in Russia,” on the contrary, we have to invite everybody because we connect people.
I tell you that nowadays, even today, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Syria, in Lebanon, in Palestine, in Israel, they play football. They play football every day. Every day, they play football. And in no situation footballers have been harmed. Okay, sometimes they have been dead; there were belligerent activities and they died. But not because of football. Because they were not in the right place. But football is there to give hope and emotion. And this FIFA World Cup in Russia is not only to give hope to your people, but you will give hope to all the world.
And today, we have the kick-off. It was the kick-off today. What was the kick-off? The kick-off was, we had the emblem, the presentation of the emblem. And the emblem, I’d say it’s the characteristics of your country. I like the emblem because you have a little bit of your Russian soul in this emblem, you have some, let’s say, festive identification also, because there are stars – it’s not this emblem, that’s FIFA – but you have stars therein. I think we cannot show it because you don’t have it, but you will see this emblem. And then, we have to use this emblem, and the organising committee will do it. You are in the organising committee. By the way, compliments to Sorokin; Sorokin is really the master of work there – he’s “Rabota, rabota, rabota” [work, work, work] every day. That’s your man.
And you now have this emblem. This emblem is the best ambassador for the World Cup, but also for the country. It’s the best – you already have the emblem. Start with Russia. We are there. We do it.
So what can I add here? When I speak about football, I speak with my heart. Because this is all in football. Football moves, and the emotion in football. And then they come after emotion, compassion. Keep the passion in football. Don’t go too much in dramas or in tragedy. Football is a tragedy when it comes to penalty kicks. Then football will lose the essence of the game, because it’s one-to-one. But if you go to extra time, it’s a drama. But the television companies will say at that time, the number of tele-spectators will go up because they want to see a drama. “A drama! This is what we need!” We don’t want a drama. But we want, through the game, we want to give to the people of this perturbed world a little bit of hope and a lot of entertainment and emotions. That’s what we want to do.
So in closing my remarks, I would just say that we started today, and the President has said about FIFA’s group, 10 days we were going through the different cities, and later on, the general secretary, if necessary, can give you some more information on that. On the presidential level, I was happy today to say, it is an oeuvre d’art, what you are doing in the Luzhniki Stadium. You keep the old stadium, but you emptied it and you bring in a new stadium, you kept the spirit of this stadium and you put some novelties in. That’s great. And we will have the preliminary draw next year. That’s the next step on the 25th of July, when I do hope that all 209 national associations will try to compete and to go in for this World Cup. So I am wishing you a wonderful journey to the World Cup, to 2018. It is the kick-off today. And I can say it is, for your country, you can be proud, but you have a responsibility to organise it. You have the right, but also the responsibility. We have the same responsibility, and I am proud that we were able to come with this World Cup to Russia, against the odds which said, “We shall not go to Russia.” But we did it, so I’m very happy today to express this, and we were a little bit, at a certain time, accomplices. But you have to be accomplices in football. You have to play the ball from one side to the other side. And this was necessary and I am happy we did it.
So I can only say we work for the game, for the world, but specifically for Russia. (In Russian.) Thank you. (In English.) Thank you so much.
Vladimir Putin: First of all, the way President Blatter talks about football, even those far removed from sport and football start to sit up and take notice.
Second, I support the view that sport – and all the more so such a mass sport as football – has a mission to bring people together, bring the country together. This big mission is not just about sports and healthy lifestyles, but has a humanitarian dimension too. President Blatter has done a lot to develop football in this respect and I think that the international community should recognise the results of all that FIFA and President Blatter have accomplished over these years to develop football.
We too are grateful to Mr Blatter of course and to all of the Executive Committee members for giving us the honour of hosting the football world cup in 2018 in Russia. Sports and football fans hope for the best results of course, better than what we achieved in Brazil, in any case. Sport is sport, but it is understandable that the fans will always want results. I hope the Sports Ministry and the football managers here in Russia will do everything possible to deliver the hoped-for results.
Our main task today is to prepare as best we can for hosting the world cup. Mr Blatter noted that although the event will take place in Russia, it is above all an international event and is about global football. We must fulfil our main task and make sure that everything is up to standard and that we meet all of our obligations. Let me say again that I am sure that this will help us to develop sport, a healthy lifestyle, and develop infrastructure too, and this is the most important thing. It is important that a number of Russian cities will host the competition, and this will help to develop their infrastructure, not just their sports infrastructure, but also transport, information and healthcare infrastructure will all get a big boost. In short, this will have a positive impact for the regions.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Blatter, friends, colleagues,
We are already some way into this project now, but in many regions the work is only just beginning. This is a big and complex undertaking, but I hope it will bring positive results. By positive results, we mean ideal preparation for the world cup and a real celebration for our fans here and for football fans around the entire world.
We must be welcoming, hospitable hosts, but at the same time need to manage our money well. We must spend our funds carefully and save where we can. Yes, we do have the needed resources. Of course we are aware of all the economic problems, the global difficulties and the unsettled times our own economy is going through, but we have calculated everything and have a clear picture of what we need to do, in what timeframe, and where the money will come from.
Let me repeat that the main thing is that everything must be ready on time, measure up to quality standards and be economical, without wasting resources.
Another very important aspect, as I said at the start, is the idea of promoting mass sport and developing football as one of the most popular sports. This was one of the reasons why we sought the honour of hosting the world cup in the first place. The world cup should leave us with a worthy legacy that can be used by teams of all levels, top teams, children’s and junior teams. It is also our chance to develop transport and communications infrastructure and the hotel networks that the regions need so urgently, above all three- and four-star hotels. It will also improve our healthcare system.
All of this together will make a big contribution to our country’s overall development. We have big tasks ahead and this is a great challenge for us all, for the teams who will be involved. I am sure that you will work in well-organised fashion and produce the results.
Thank you very much.