'Russia on track for 2018 SWC'
Moscow - World soccer supremo Sepp Blatter on Sunday said Russia was well ahead of schedule towards hosting the 2018 World Cup, despite facing the huge task of realising a project costing almost $20bn.
Blatter said one day after FIFA and Russia unveiled the final list of the 11 Russian host cities that Russia's "new approach" was more efficient than that of South Africa in 2010 or Brazil which will host the 2014 edition.
"We are one year ahead of schedule. This is a new approach for organising World Cups," the FIFA president told reporters alongside Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko.
"With this approach we have already come so far, six years before the start," he said.
After a bid championed by President Vladimir Putin, Russia was in December 2010 awarded the right to host the World Cup by FIFA in a hugely controversial decision which was bitterly criticised by beaten rivals including England.
But Blatter emphasised the historic nature of hosting the event for the first time in eastern Europe, saying FIFA had decided to skip the "traditional houses" of western Europe.
He said that after winning the right to host the World Cup in 2010, the South Africans were "just dancing" with joy and had to be told by FIFA to get to work.
Brazil, meanwhile, had expressed confidence that the country is ready "but that is not exactly the case," Blatter said.
"The Russians started to work so hard right from the start. It is a different approach. I am very happy."
The 11 Russian cities that will host matches extend from the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad on the borders of the European Union to Yekaterinburg in the Urals, three time zones and 2 500km to the east.
Mutko described hosting the World Cup as a "great honour and a huge challenge", with seven of the 11 host cities needing to completely rebuild stadiums or construct them from scratch.
He estimated the total cost of the World Cup at 600bn rubles ($19.2bn) saying that half of the funds would come from private investment and half from either the federal or regional budgets.
Not only stadiums but new airports, hotels and roads will 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.