Russia officially unveiled its bid to host the 2018 or 2022 football World Cup on Friday, pledging to restrict the large—scale event to the vast nation’s European territory and bring much-needed development to its neglected cities.
Russia is among nine nations bidding to host the tournament in either year, while three more countries are interested only in the 2022 finals. It hopes that pledges of investment in creaking infrastructure and the fact that it has never hosted the prestigious event before will set it apart from what are sure to be powerful bids by England, the United States and others.
“Every tournament should be held in a country that has not previously hosted it,” said sports minister Vitaly Mutko. “Our bid is unique ... and (winning) will enable our cities to take on a completely different appearance.”
The bid is seen as part of a wider, money-no-object government effort to cast Russia as a modern, dynamic nation capable of staging the world’s top-tier events.
Russia hosted a lavish Eurovision Song Contest earlier this year and the Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea last year. It will stage the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
“Tell me, who conducts such events better than Russia?” Mutko said.
Despite being hit by the global financial crisis, Russia is planning a grandiose redevelopment of cities bypassed by its oil-fueled boom of the past decade. It is proposing 15 stadiums in 14 host cities, split into five areas of western Russia: northern, southern, central, Volga River and Urals mountain regions.
Mutko said Friday that five new stadiums would need building and 10 will be substantially refurbished.
The new stadiums will include at least two more for Moscow one each for Dynamo Moscow and Spartak Moscow and a 60,000-seat arena in St. Petersburg, Mutko said.
Only Moscow’s 80,000-seat Luzhniki Stadium, which hosted last year’s Champions League final, conforms to governing body FIFA’s requirements.
Stadiums aside, most of the infrastructure associated with the event would have to be built from scratch, as with the Sochi Games.
Many of the cities will require international airports, new hotels, roads and hospitals, Mutko said, implying massive investments that will dwarf previous World Cup spending in host countries.
Mutko refused to give a dollar figure, saying the budget will be revealed when Russia submits details of its bid to FIFA in May next year.
“We are aiming to show the world a new Russia, a Russia capable of inspiring,” Mutko said. He refused to compare Russia’s bid to that of other nations.
Other bidders for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups are England, the United States, Australia and Japan, along with joint bids from Spain and Portugal and also Netherlands and Belgium. Indonesia, South Korea and Qatar are bidding for 2022 only.
The hosts will be announced by FIFA on Dec. 2, 2010.