Zurich - Not even the surprising absence of
Vladimir Putin could derail Russia's World Cup bid as FIFA voters once
again demonstrated fondness for taking football to new frontiers on Thursday.
Putin had expected to be a prominent figurehead for the
Russian bid in the final days of campaigning, but instead remained in
Moscow as voters gathered in Zurich ahead of Thursday's ballot.
However, the absence of the Russian Prime Minister was no obstacle to success
for a slick campaign which has secured the country its first ever World
Cup, despite lingering concerns over infrastructure.
proposed staging the World Cup in 13 cities grouped into four clusters
stretching from the exclave of Kaliningrad on the borders of the
European Union to Yekaterinburg in the Urals on the fringe of Siberia.
the exception of Yekaterinburg, all the cities are in the European part
of Russia and teams will not have to fly out to far-flung regions.
promise to scrap visas was of crucial importance as nationals of almost
all countries outside the former Soviet Union require visas to visit
Russia, an often expensive and time-consuming process.
assured that construction works at the country's possible World Cup
facilities would take place even if Russia's bid failed.
Russian strongman - whose support was seen crucial in securing the 2014
Winter Olympics for Russia - also promised that football fans will have
the right to travel free on public transport during the event.
plan for construction works and improving facilities in host cities fit
FIFA's long-term plans of developing the sport, especially in regions
with outdated infrastructure.
Russia already has some experience
in hosting major football events, most notably the rain-drenched 2008
Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea and the
1999 UEFA Cup final, which Italy's Parma won.
But Russia's huge
size, its remoteness from other countries and relatively weak
transportation system have created questions about the country's ability
to move fans, footballers and officials from one region to another.
FIFA has also announced Qatar as the hosts for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.