Russia World Cup to 'dispel stereotypes'
Russia hopes its hosting of the 2018 World Cup will dispel negative stereotypes about the country by showcasing modern stadiums and transport networks, the head of the Russian organising committee said.
The country is hosting the World Cup in a hugely ambitious project championed by President Vladimir Putin costing $20 billion that will include host cities from the Baltic Sea to the Ural Mountains.
But organising committee chief Alexei Sorokin told the Sport Express newspaper that Russia still had to disprove stereotypes which the country inherited from its Soviet past.
He said that the successful hosting of the 2012 European football championship by ex-Soviet Ukraine will likely help Russia.
"Russia still suffers from the negative stereotypes from the past and we need to disprove this," he said. "We need to disprove it in reality not just in words.
"The Euro-2012 co-hosts Ukraine's image also suffered from the rumours. The ill-wishers said that Ukraine is a dangerous country with extraordinary high prices and urged people not to visit Ukraine's part of the event."
"We must pursue a pre-emptive tactic and do our best to avoid such claims," he said.
Sorokin said that he expected no problems with accommodation of the participating teams and their supporters during the World Cup.
"We also have a favourable forecast about the fans' accommodation as the private business showed serious interest."
However, Sorokin said that the organisers should never rest on their laurels as there was a lot of hard work remaining.
Not only stadiums but new airports, hotels and roads need to be built in several provincial cities which until now have seen only a trickle of foreign visitors and are almost unknown to the outside world.
As well as the well known cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg the World Cup will see games played in more far-flung locations like the exclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic, Saransk in little-known Mordovia and Yekaterinburg in the Urals.
"We should have the most modern venues by 2018... This is a very hard task but we have no other choice but to fulfill it," he said.
Sorokin said the FIFA representatives have never issued a single complaint on the organising committee's work so far.
"The FIFA representatives are visiting us so often that I have a feeling that they live here on a permanent basis," Sorokin said.
"Neither the president nor the secretary general of this organisation have issued a single unfavourable comment upon our activity."
The organising committee chief added that though England was furious after losing the race for the right to host the 2018 World Cup, hard feelings had given way to cooperation as top British officials showed their intention to cooperate with the Russian organisers.
"We recently had a very productive meeting with the British sports minister and ambassador in Russia. We have confirmed our joint intention to be on friendly terms and cooperate," he said.
Russia was in December 2010 awarded the right to host the World Cup in a hugely controversial decision which was bitterly criticised by beaten rivals, including England, as tainted by corruption and vote-selling.
Sorokin also said that though the country's railways failed to receive the budget funding for their project of a high-speed train from Moscow to the most easterly World Cup host city Yekaterinburg it would hardly become a serious problem for the organisers.
"The railway is just one of the modes of transportation of the fans to the venues," Sorokin said. "Yekaterinburg is a big city with a modern airport and we expect no problems with delivering the fans there."
"Compared to the 2014 World Cup hosts Brazil -- where the the distance between the host cities reaches 3,000 kilometres -- Yekaterinburg is placed not so far, just 1,000 miles away from Moscow."