Fans visiting Russia to watch the 2018 FIFA World Cup will not require visas to enter the country, Vladimir Putin has announced in a Ceremony to mark the handing over of hosting rights from Brazil to the next host nation.
“We will do all we can to organise the event on the highest level,” he vowed.
“We successfully hosted the Winter Olympics in Sochi and now know exactly what a challenge it is to organise an event of such calibre.
“I want to congratulate President Rousseff on how the World Cup was organised.
“Football helps to solve social problems.
“Our task is to create the best possible conditions for the coaches, players, experts and fans, and I am grateful to President Blatter and his colleagues from FIFA for the honour to organise the World Cup.”
During halftime of the match, a commercial designed by Los Angeles-based advertising agency Adore Creative promoting the next edition of the quadrennial tournament was also showcased.
Russia has already waved visa requirements for athletes competing in major sporting events in what is being hailed as a “decade of sport” for the world’s largest country, with an accreditation enough for athletes, officials and media representatives to attend the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games earlier this year.
But in what can be interpreted as an attempt to replicate the high number of international fans flocking to Brazil 2014 over the last month, this has now been extended to include supporters as well players, team personnel and other foreign staff at Russia 2018.
The move is unprecedented throughout the 84-year-long history of the competition, Putin claimed to the ITAR-Tass news agency.
Matches will also be held at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, with capacity there to be increased to 45,000 seats.
Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko initially estimated the total cost of the 2018 World Cup at RUB680 billion (£12 billion/$20 billion/€15 billion), with around 50 per cent to come from eight regional budgets and the remainder from private investment.
Although Brazil’s humiliating 7-1 defeat to eventual winners Germany does not appear to have dampened enthusiasm too much so far, one way Russia could boost the prospects of a successful tournament is by an improved performance on the pitch,
This comes after Fabio Capello’s side failed to make it out of the group stages in Brazil after recording draws against South Korea and Algeria and a loss to Belgium.