It’s not a reason for celebration, and it shouldn’t be. But a lot of smug soccer fans out there are hard-pressed not to say “I told you so.”
After Russia slashed spending on its 2018 FIFA World Cup in the midst of an economic crisis, the budget shortfalls are, well, showing. St Petersburg’s Krestovsky Stadium, which is due to host key matches during the event, has held its first game, and it wasn’t a success.
According to an article in Inside The Games, the 69,000-seat stadium around the field that hosted action between Zenit St. Petersburg and Urail Ykatinburg had some serious issues. And while FIFA had approved the venue in 2016, it had expressed reservations.
The article notes, “The field for the opening game appeared to be in poor condition with large brown patches and chunks of the pitch frequently coming loose.”
This report comes after a November inspection when a FIFA Commission discovered that the retractable playing field was unstable, producing vibration levels seven times higher than the accepted level. Nevertheless, FIFA approved the venue in December 2016 amid several cost and construction timetable overruns.
The stadium has received heavy criticism worldwide after news of its rising budget spread; that figure has spiraled to a current projection of around $726 million. A new constructor, Metrostroy, was brought in over the summer, but it didn’t appear to help the final result.
In addition, the stadium was only partly full for its debut because organizers inexplicably decided not to open the top tier.
Last week, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko set a deadline of the end of the year for the completion of all World Cup 2018 construction work.
The city of Saransk is one of 11 sites due to host matches during the 2018 World Cup. Construction at the Mordovia Arena in that city began in 2010, but is still not yet completely finished. However, work there and at other venues is considered fairly minor – at least according to reports.
The 2018 World Cup is scheduled for June 14 to July 15 – but the stadium in St. Petersburg has to get its act together in a little less than a month, since it is due to host international soccer action in the form of the Confederations Cup. That event is scheduled from June 17 to July 2.
Mutko, who spoke during a visit to Saransk to inspect progress at the 44,000-capacity Mordovia Arena, insisted there were no problems with any venues, despite the economic issues covered in the news.
It calls to mind the run-up to the Winter Olympic Games of 2014 in Sochi, Russia, when sports enthusiasts were entertained not only by the Games themselves, but by the often hilarious live social media shares from jounalists who were staying in comically poor rushed construction of hotel rooms.