From June 14 to July 15, 2018, the Russian Federation will host the most famous football tournament: the FIFA World Cup. In the world of sports it can be compared only to the Olympic Games by significance and audience size, which usually amounts to more than 3 billion people globally. It is also a great opportunity for our Taiwanese partners and friends to explore Russia in terms of both tourism and business.
This large-scale sport festival will be held in eleven host cities (Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Sochi, Kazan, Volgograd, Ekaterinburg, Samara, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod and Saransk), demonstrating the natural and cultural diversity of our country as well as its economic potential. Thirty two national teams will represent Europe, Asia, the Americas and Africa. The competition will bring together the most famous football players from all over the world, including living legends, such as Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar. It is, therefore, not surprising that during the early booking period (September 14 – October 12, 2017), 3.5 million match tickets were requested. Most of the applications came from various parts of Russia, while international demand accounted for more than 30 per cent. American, Chinese, German, Brazilian, Argentinian, Mexican, Colombian, Egyptian and Polish guests all rank in the top 10. Sales resumed on November 16, 2017, when football fans for the first time got a possibility to purchase tickets in real time (www.fifa.com/tickets).
Based on the country’s experience of hosting large-scale international events over the past five years –– such as Kazan 2013 Summer Universiade, Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games, Sochi 2017 World Festival of Youth and Students –– Russia has prepared a unique program aimed at making the upcoming competition comfortable and pleasant for foreign guests. The key point is that Russia will be implementing a visa-free policy for World Cup spectators. To be admitted to the country without a visa, you will simply need a valid passport and a Fan ID, which comes with the purchase of any match ticket (more details at www.fan-id.ru). The Fan ID allows visitors to stay in Russia from June 4, 2018 (10 days prior to the first match) to July 25, 2018 (10 days after the last one). Besides, Fan ID holders will be granted free access to all public transport routes in and between the FIFA World Cup host cities. At airports, railway and subway stations, as well as specially established help desks, more than 10,000 English-speaking volunteers will be ready to provide any necessary assistance and support to foreign guests. Special attention will be given to people with disabilities. It is worth mentioning that all related facilities have been fitted with relevant signs in English and partly even in Chinese.
The planned format of holding the 2018 FIFA World Cup was successfully tested during the FIFA Confederations Cup held in Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Kazan, and Sochi from June 17 – July 2, 2017, which was attended by more than 450,000 spectators. The level of organization during the competition was highly commended by various international sport NGOs, the fans, and participating teams. As FIFA President Gianni Infantino noted, “Before the tournament, we heard a lot of talk about problems in Russia, that teams would not want to come here. We heard about violence, hooliganism, and racism. Everything went smoothly, if a problematic tournament looks like this, then I want all tournaments to be problematic for us”. The captain of the Germany team Julian Draxler (the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup winner) even wrote an open letter of gratitude to the organizers and thanked all Russian fans for their hospitality.
The main goal of the upcoming international event is to show our country as it actually is: beautiful and charming, friendly and safe, open and innovative. Due to the tournament, the host cities have developed special multi-languages travel packages highlighting their unique features. For instance, Moscow and Saint Petersburg will demonstrate imperial and modern glory of the two capitals; Kaliningrad will show off its Teutonic Order-era medieval castles; Yekaterinburg will focus on newly developed brands, “Ural Minerals” and “Ural the Rock Capital”; Sochi will promote the Cossack culture and delicious southern cuisine; Nizhniy Novgorod is betting on the famous Volga river cruises. Moreover, every host city will offer a number football related interactive activities free-of-charge to Fan ID holders.
The organizing committee is sure that any foreign guest is bound to find something of interest during the summer of 2018. In order to help travelers make their way, a special tourist portal, Welcome2018.com, has been created. Presented in five languages, it provides detailed information on Russia in general and the host cities in particular. A considerable amount of content is dedicated to proven tour guides and popular attractions. Furthermore, the portal integrates reservation services for hotels, air and railway tickets, and interactive maps allowing users to immediately save favorite places and then build a comfortable route using the mobile application.
Most importantly, the 2018 FIFA World Cup legacy including improved travel infrastructure, as well as newly developed sightseeing tours, will serve future generations of tourists. And it is not by chance that the corresponding Russian authorities expect a 20–25 per cent rise in tourist inflow to the host cities in 2019–2020.
As for the economic component, the 2018 FIFA World Cup costs for Russia are estimated to exceed 11 billion USD. The expenditures include
8 billion USD from federal and regional budget funds, and 3 billion USD provided by sponsors.
More than 7 billion USD of the total sum were allocated to construct and renovate football stadiums, airports, and other infrastructure. These significant costs include installation of modern electronic hardware, which will serve the purposes of both security and comfort. In particular, all the stadiums will have free Wi-Fi services covering 550,000 spectators. During matches, fans with children will be provided with smart electronic bracelets to help find kids in case they get lost in the crowd. Dozens of airports were equipped with additional CCTV monitoring systems. Special attention was given to the development of medical infrastructure and the purchase of related equipment, etc. Relevant tenders were carried out in a transparent manner and were open for participation by foreign partners.
All the facilities built and modernized will be used beyond the event itself. Hundreds of thousands foreign fans and travelers will take away positive memories of Russia. That is why we perceive the 2018 FIFA World Cup as a promising investment in the future of our country. We are glad to invite our Taiwanese friends to join us in this beautiful sport festival and use the perfect chance to further discover Russia in the following years.