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SBD Global/July 16, 2014/International Football

FIFA President Sepp Blatter Casts Doubt On 2018 Russia World Cup Plans

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FIFA President Sepp Blatter "threw an unexpected seed of doubt into Russia's preparations for the 2018 World Cup on Monday when he said that FIFA will discuss the possibility of reducing the number of stadiums to be used there in four years time," according to Mike Collett of REUTERS. Two days after Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko gave media detailed background about Russia's plans for their World Cup which involves 12 stadiums in 11 cities, Blatter implied that "they could be re-examined." Blatter said, "It's a footballing country but we will have meetings there in September to see if 12 is the right number and even if they could be reduced to 10." His comments "came as a complete surprise" to Russian Organizing Committee CEO Alexei Sorokin, who said, "This is the first I have heard about it, we know nothing about this" (REUTERS, 7/15). In London, FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke, charged with the task of delivering first a World Cup in South Africa and then one in Brazil, "must now turn east for the third World Cup in a row targeted at a developing economy." The logistics "are challenging." The "endless cycle of new stadiums, new roads, new railways, new infrastructure might give the hosts a (much-disputed) Keynesian rationale for spending money on a World Cup." Not to mention "the opportunity for more people to make a cut." But "it also means more to potentially go wrong." Dealings with Putin’s Russia "are likely to be straightforward in comparison to Brazil" -- for "obvious reasons there are unlikely to be mass street protests." In a "revealing aside last year that says much about Fifa’s priorities," Valcke said, “I will say something which is crazy, but less democracy is sometimes better for organizing a World Cup.” But while there will be less civil unrest, and fewer concerns that the '18 hosts will not build their stadiums on time, "the bigger job might be selling the concept of a Russian World Cup to fans and sponsors" (GUARDIAN, 7/15).
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