‘Spectacular stadium, warm welcome’: FIFA endorses Samara Arena readied for 2018 World Cup

FIFA is fully satisfied with the preparation work at the football arena in Samara, one of 11 cities that were selected to host matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, Chief Competitions & Events Officer Colin Smith has said following a site inspection.

The 45,000 capacity Samara Arena is still under construction and as the crucial operation to cover the dome got underway, the city of over a million people hosted a FIFA delegation with a warm Russian welcome.

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Smith and his team arrived in Samara which lies on the Volga River after wrapping up their visit to Yekaterinburg in the Urals Wednesday.

“It’s the second stop on the inspection visit and these visits are critical in our planning for the FIFA World Cup,” Smith noted.

“Each visit allowed the functional areas from FIFA and the Organizing Committee to work together with the venue managers and the stadium managers in order to plan the use of the facilities and the flow.”

FIFA, world football’s governing body, is inspecting the construction progress at all the Russian venues that will host the international showpiece starting in June 2018. Samara will host its first Group E match on June 17, 2018, and will welcome fans for a quarter final showdown scheduled for July 7.

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Fans are seen here during the Gentlefan campaign ahead of the UEFA Champions League group stage match Spartak Russia vs. Liverpool England.
Vladimir Pesnya

Workers at the stadium are currently engaged with mounting the huge roofing structure, accompanied by the application of an anti-corrosive layer to the stadium’s metal dome. Preparatory work on the pitch has also begun, in addition to the decoration work in and outside the facility.

“We have received the full commitment from the governor and the regional authorities that everything will be done to finish as soon as possible,” Smith said. “It’s a complicated roofing structure. A lot of steel and metal work.”

“From what we’ve seen when you’re inside in the bowl of the stadium, we can imagine the atmosphere that’s going to be in there… the seats, the view of the pitch is spectacular,” another FIFA official added. “The proximity to the pitch from all the seats is great. It’s a real football stadium.”

Smith said national teams are eager to be part of FIFA 2018 World Cup in Russia.

“Teams strive very hard to qualify for the World Cup. We’re reaching the end of an exciting qualification and we certainly believe that every country that is striving to be there will want to come and compete and ultimately want to win the World Cup,” Smith said.

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In addition to the sporting venue, FIFA’s team are also assessing the city’s facilities that will house national teams and thousands of international football fans.

“The main focus of such visits is always the stadium, but… we need to look at hotels, airports, roads, public transport facilities,” Smith said, praising the reception of the host city.

“We received a very warm welcome from the city, the governor and the local authorities,” he noted.

After Russia won the bid to host the global football spectacle in December 2010 – 11 cities and 12 stadiums were selected to host the 2018 World Cup. In addition to Samara, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, and Yekaterinburg will welcome fans between June 14 and July 15. Matches in the Russian capital will be split between the two main Moscow stadiums.