MOSCOW (AP) — Russia is resisting demands from FIFA to reduce the number of stadiums for the 2018 World Cup from 12 to 10.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who said last month that two of the 12 planned stadiums could be cut, was in Sochi over the weekend to discuss the issue with Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko.
“The conception, under which 12 stadiums in 11 cities will host World Cup matches, is not being changed,” Mutko said, according to the ITAR-Tass agency. “FIFA recommends 10 stadiums in nine cities, including two arenas in Moscow.”
Mutko said a final decision will be taken at a FIFA executive committee meeting in October. Mutko, who is a member of the executive committee, said deciding any later would cause problems because construction is scheduled to start soon at several arenas.
A FIFA delegation is to start inspecting the 2018 arenas on Wednesday, beginning with the planned 45,000-seat stadium in the central Russian city of Saransk, Mutko said.
The World Cup in Brazil used 12 stadiums in 12 cities, and there has been speculation that a possible cut in venues for Russia could be aimed at avoiding the construction delays that plagued some Brazilian venues.
Neither FIFA nor Russia has said which stadiums could be cut, although Mutko has previously said that stadiums in the western city of Kaliningrad and southern city of Volgograd are proving the most difficult to construct.
On Sunday, the new Kazan Arena in central Russia became the first completed 2018 arena to host a game as Rubin Kazan drew 1-1 with Lokomotiv Moscow. Spartak Moscow’s new Otkritie Arena, also a World Cup venue, is to host its first game next month.
The Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi hosted the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2014 Olympics, but needs wide-ranging reconfiguration work before it can host soccer matches. Work on a large-scale renovation has already begun at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, the site of the final, while a group of seven new and renovated stadiums in provincial cities have so far seen little large-scale construction.
Russia’s original bid numbered 16 venues in 13 cities before being cut to a “final” list of 12 stadiums.