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Russia has taken a significant step towards its promise of visa-free travel during its staging of the 2018 FIFA World Cup with President Vladimir Putin signing a decree waiving visa requirements for athletes and officials attending international sporting events in the country.

Russia has taken a significant step towards its promise of visa-free travel during its staging of the 2018 FIFA World Cup with President Vladimir Putin signing a decree waiving visa requirements for athletes and officials attending international sporting events in the country.

Under the terms of the decree, the Kremlin on Monday announced that foreigners taking part in international sports events, such as athletes, trainers and team officials, can enter and exit Russia without a visa, on the provision of ID documents recognised by the Russian Federation, and accreditation documents issued by the international sports event’s organisers. The Kremlin said that the government shall approve a list of international sports events and the length of time that foreign participants in these events can stay in Russia. Speaking at the Soccerex European Forum last month, Russia 2018 deputy CEO Alexander Djordjadze said that organisers’ vision of a fan-focused World Cup will go beyond the staging of Fan Fests, promising that the tournament would not only feature visa-free entry for ticket-holders travelling to Russia, but also free travel on trains and buses for supporters moving in and between host cities. “The visa agreement is totally unprecedented for Russia, but didn’t come from nowhere,” he said. “Testing took place during the 2008 Champions League final in Moscow and went very smoothly with 30,000 fans arriving from England in one day for the match between Manchester United and Chelsea. It will be different in 2018 but by then hopefully the whole subject of visas will be history anyway.”

In other news, Russia 2018 published its 2012 Annual Report on Monday with local organising committee (LOC) chief executive Alexey Sorokin stating the main priorities for this year are the finalisation of the World Cup infrastructure programme and monitoring of stadium development. The budget for all infrastructure development related to the World Cup has yet to be confirmed but has previously been placed at US$19.2 billion. Out of a long list of 1,129 projects initially submitted by the regional governments, a preliminary shortlist of 350 top priority facilities has been drafted and submitted to the government. Sorokin said: “The vital task for 2013 is to finalise the infrastructure programme that will list all the FIFA World Cup projects and funds allocated for construction and modernisation. The list will include both sports infrastructure (stadiums, training sites, team base camps) and the so-called general infrastructure (hotels, airports, roads, public transport, etc.). We expect the government to approve the programme in the spring of 2013. Stadium construction monitoring is another priority. Five FIFA World Cup stadiums are already under way: in St. Petersburg, Kazan, Saransk, Sochi, as well as the FC Spartak stadium in Moscow. Stadia in Kazan and Sochi will be completed in 2013. The Spartak stadium will welcome fans in 2014. In 2013, seven more stadiums will be designed – in Volgograd, Ekaterinburg, Kaliningrad, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don and Samara, as well as the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow. Building stadiums for the 2018 FIFA World Cup is the responsibility of the host cities, but we, as the Local Organising Committee, are responsible for compliance with the FIFA requirements and with the schedule for the FIFA World Cup preparations. My goal is to make the best use of the time we have before the tournament.”

Meanwhile, Russia 2018 said that it expects the country’s World Cup law to be signed off this year. The competition’s complex nature calls for legal regulations to be introduced in various spheres of law and business, therefore making the adoption of a federal law one of the top priorities for the LOC and FIFA. The law is expected to align the Russian legal system to the needs of the competition, and guarantee the commitments Russia gave during the bidding process in 2010. Russia’s Committee on Physical Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs will this year finalise the draft of the law before it passes second and third readings and further approval by the Federation Council. At the final stage, the law will be signed by President Putin and officially published. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in June 2012 signed off on the crucial bill regulating the country’s staging of the 2014 World Cup, with both parties agreeing concessions in the sale of alcohol and ticketing. The news brought to an end the long-running quest to bring the law into force – a saga that increased tensions between FIFA and local organisers. FIFA had wanted the bill to be finalised at the beginning of last year.

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